Mark Howard Publications Ltd

Weekend Review

05-February-2023 22:57
in General
by Admin

Not surprisingly, Willie Mullins dominated the two day Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown with 8 winners from 45 runners, including half a dozen Grade 1 prizes. The Closutton outfit had a few reversals though with Lossiemouth, Blue Lord and Facile Vega turned over at prohibitive odds. Paul Townend rode that trio but hardly left empty handed following victories aboard Galopin Des Champs (Irish Gold Cup), State Man (Irish Champion Hurdle) and Gaelic Warrior (valuable handicap hurdle). 

There is so much to digest from the meeting but Galopin Des Champs cemented his position at the top of the market in the Gold Cup having disposed of six opponents in the Irish Gold Cup at Saturday. While his performance didn't please everyone, it was another step forward in his career and the Festival winner deserves his place at the top of the market. His stamina has never been an issue and there is every reason to believe he will be even better over an extra two and a half furlongs. An eight lengths winner at the weekend, the seven year old hit the line strongly at the weekend and I find it hard to believe his stablemate Stattler will turn the tables. Yes, the runner-up won the NH Chase at last year's Festival and has stamina in abundance but Gold Cup winners must have speed as well - A Plus Tard and Kauto Star are prime examples. They had enough speed and class to win Grade 1 races over two miles, let alone three and a quarter miles. Galopin Des Champs has the lot - he is a previous course winner, he will arrive at the top of his game and handles any ground. 

State Man produced another smart performance to register his fourth Grade 1 victory of his relatively short career by taking the Irish Champion Hurdle. Paul Townend's mount was immediately to the fore and wasn't hard pressed to see off the challenge of Honeysuckle who was seeking her fourth win in the race. A four and three quarter lengths winner, he is expected to form the biggest challenge to Constitution Hill in the Champion Hurdle next month. A former winner of the County Hurdle, the ex-French gelding is thriving but more will be required if he is to trouble Nicky Henderson's hot favourite. Having run so well over Christmas, I was expecting more from Vauban who never really threatened in third. Last season's Triumph Hurdle winner appeared to be travelling well before the home turn but could never get near his stable companion. 

The defeat of Facile Vega in the Grade 1 novice put the cat amongst the pigeons as far as the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle betting is concerned. Willie Mullins argued afterwards that Paul Townend went too quick on the previously unbeaten gelding going head to head with classy ex-Flat racer High Definition. While there may be some mileage in that argument, I am not convinced that is the reason because the six year old faded very tamely approaching the last and was eventually beaten 20 lengths. The winner Il Etait Temps is clearly a smart horse and has earned his place in the Festival opener. However, he isn't the slickest of jumpers and I am not convinced he is good enough. Impaire Et Passe would be my choice - he is blessed with all the ingredients of a Supreme winner. The five year old has a high cruising speed and is a very good jumper.

Gaelic Warrior is another possibility for the Supreme having made light of a rating of 143 in the valuable two miles handicap hurdle. The race couldn't have worked out any better for the five year old sitting close to a steady gallop - the time was nearly five seconds slower than the Grade 1 two miles novice - and taking it up in the home straight. With the exception of the last, his jumping was OK and not a major issue. However, I would be tempted to step him up to two and a half miles in the Ballymore NH at Cheltenham because he couldn't afford to jump to his right over the last couple of hurdles in the Supreme and get away with it - it arguably cost him in the Boodles last season on the Old course. The Maxios gelding is a horse with a huge engine and it was a terrific performance on Sunday. Don't forget, he had run 19 days earlier on bottomless ground at Thurles beating a 150 rated chaser. In terms of talent and ability, he is one of the best at Closutton. 

El Fabiolo and Mighty Potter also produced top-class performances to win Grade 1 events over the weekend. The former overcame a few errors before powering away to claim the Irish Arkle by ten lengths. His rematch with Jonbon is something to look forward to on the opening day of the Festival next month, while the latter maintained his unbeaten record over the larger obstacles in the two miles five novice chase on Sunday with another silky smooth effort. Always to the fore, he readily pulled away from his toiling rivals. Gordon Elliott's charge will head to Cheltenham a warm favourite for the Turners Novices' Chase on day three - Gordon Elliott's gelding has to prove his effectiveness at the track having bombed out there last season. 

Finally, it was disappointing to see Lossiemouth lose her unbeaten record in the Grade 1 Spring Juvenile Hurdle on Saturday but all is not lost. The ex-French filly met trouble in running when tightened up by her stablemate approaching the end of the backstraight. Set a huge task thereafter, Paul Townend's mount got within two and a half lengths of Gala Marceau and, while Willie Mullins is concerned she endured a hard race attempting to make up the ground, the Great Pretender has nearly six weeks to get over the experience. The Triumph Hurdle promises to be a strong renewal this year with Mullins runners dominating the ante-post list with Lossiemouth, Blood Destiny and Gala Marceau. Tekao completed his Festival prep with an eyecatching run in third. Taken wide throughout, Mark Walsh's mount was last off the bridle and his jockey certainly didn't subject his partner to an aggressive ride - he waved rather than used his stick after the last. Now qualified for the Boodles Juvenile Hurdle, it will be interesting to see what the four year old's revised mark is - it was 121 on Saturday.

Talking of juvenile hurdlers, Afadil (7/2) was highlighted in the February Update and the former Aga Khan owned gelding made it two out of two over timber Listed Scottish Triumph Hurdle at Musselburgh. The son of Camelot, who cost a cool €255,000, had won cosily at Taunton last month and Paul Nicholls believed there was 'huge improvement' to come. Despite racing keenly, Harry Cobden's mount wasn't hard pressed to beat The Churchill Lad by a length and a half. Entered in the Triumph Hurdle, it will be interesting to see where he goes next. Will the champion trainer target the Triumph Hurdle and perhaps take in the Adonis Hurdle at Kempton (25th February) en route or contest the Victor Ludorum Hurdle at Haydock a week earlier and get him qualified for the Boodles at the Festival? Entries for the handicaps have to be in by noon on the 21st February. Alternatively, he may skip Cheltenham and wait for Aintree. He is a nice sort.



  • “Thank you for a very successful and profitable email service. My personal highlight was the win of Aloomomo whose romp round Uttoxeter was a joy. Keep up the good work with all your services, the books and updates, they are simply the best by a very long way.”


  • “Just want to say thanks for running the service again this year, I have ended up with a nice £756 profit from it so I'm obviously very happy with that so thanks a lot!”


  • “Thanks for your email Mark would just like to say your selections and insight has been awesome. Keep up the good work sir your service is the best.”


  • “Thank you for an excellent tipping service throughout the three months. It has been a pleasure and profitable to be a member of your service. Your indepth knowledge and analysis of the race has been excellent. I honestly rate your service as one of the best and most profitable.”


  • “Thanks very much for the fantastic service you have supplied, I have been involved with racing tipsters for over 30 years and never had as good a strike rate as yourself, out of this world.”


  • “The email service as usual has been brilliant and this season's OJA seems to continue to unearth amazing insight if you have the time to trust and follow it in detail over a period. Thanks as always for your outstanding value for money publications.”


  • “Superb information again Mark, I managed to get some 11/4, will certainly pay for Xmas. Different class.”


  • “Awesome result the magicman strikes again. Won with plenty in hand and not a moments worry great write up spot on again and results speak for themselves best service I've tried, keep up the fantastic work sir. Very happy customer!”


Contact Us

Mark Howard Publications Ltd.
69 Fairgarth Drive
Kirkby Lonsdale

015242 71826

015242 79010