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Lucky Loader’s ITV Racing Preview

The action just keeps getting better at the Dublin Racing Festival with four Grade 1s at Leopardstown. There is also plenty to delve into at Musselburgh for the second day of their Scottish Cheltenham Trials Meeting. I fancy a few favourites to come unstuck over the Irish Sea this afternoon.

1.10 Leopardstown – Grangeclare West (Win)

Many punters will be looking to side with Gaelic Warrior here. However, I do have my concerns about him going left-handed, as he has a tendency to jump out to his right, which will make him vulnerable at Leopardstown. That’s why I am going with Grangeclare West. I think he has taken some people by surprise this season, including his trainer, Willie Mullins. The way he won at this track over Christmas was very impressive. That victory did come over 3m, and he drops back in trip to 2m5f, though I don’t think that will inconvenience him as he has a high cruising speed. I think the eight-year-old gelding will definitely give his stablemate something to think about.

1.40 Leopardstown – King Of Kingsfield (Each Way)

Notepads will be at the ready for some Supreme clues. Ballyburn is likely to be popular after he bolted up at Leopardstown in December. He could be anything, and he is probably the one to beat. Elsewhere, I do think King of Kingsfield has been overlooked. He appears to be more exposed than some of the opposition, but I think he’s been a slow burner who has been improving with each run. The last time we saw him, he broke his maiden tag over hurdles with a comfortable success at this track, which has subsequently been boosted. He was only beaten one and a half lengths by Farren Glory in the Grade 1 Royal Bond Novices’ Hurdle at Fairyhouse, and I think his jockey, Jordan Gainford, hit the front too early that day. I’m expecting a big run from him here, and I think he’s worth a good each-way bet.

2.10 Leopardstown – Dinoblue (Win)

Of all the Willie Mullins hotpots at the Dublin Racing Festival I do think El Fabiolo is the most beatable this weekend. He might have a string of wins next to his name, but I have always felt he’s not the most reliable jumper and that could end up costing him in a big race. That’s why I am going to side with the improving mare Dinoblue. I was impressed with the way she won over this course and distance at Christmas and I don’t think we’ve got to the bottom of her yet. She’ll get the 7lb mares allowance from all her rivals which could make all the difference. If she does take the scalp of El Fabiolo it could make the Champion Chase picture very interesting.

2.45 – Leopardstown – State Man (Win)

If Constitution Hill didn’t exist then State Man would clearly be the best around. The son of Doctor Dino is head and shoulders the best two-mile hurdler in Ireland, winning seven Grade 1s. I think this will be a procession as nothing has got near him over the Irish Sea. The only horse I can see maybe giving him something to think about is Bob Olinger, who has looked like a rejuvenated horse for Henry De Bromhead this season. He was a good winner of the Relkeel Hurdle at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day, and Marie’s Rock has gone on to boost that form. This trip might just be on the sharp side for him but I can definitely see him finishing second behind State Man.

3.20 Leopardstown – James Du Berlais (Each Way)

Things finally seemed to click for James Du Berlais when he ran a blinder to finish fourth in the Paddy Power Handicap Chase at Christmas. That was over 3m and he’ll probably be suited by this drop back in trip. He’s a horse that has always had a touch of class, but he might have found life a bit tough against the likes of some of Willie Mullins’ stable stars competing in graded company in recent years. He’s only 1lb higher this time around, and I think this could be his day to shine in the sun. Of the others Perceval Legallois is an interesting runner. He has been campaigned in some graded novice chases and looks to have been bought along with handicaps in mind. He is one to note in the betting on his handicap debut.

1.20 Musselburgh – Liari (Win)

I spoke in Saturday’s blog about how Paul Nicholls likes to target his runners at Musselburgh, and he looks to have a leading chance here in the form of Liari. He was a good winner when taking a Listed juvenile hurdle at Aintree in December and looks like the sort of horse that could be open to more improvement. He does have to shoulder a 5lb penalty for that success, but I think he is more than capable of pulling it off. An Bradan Feasa is probably his biggest threat after winning at Cheltenham, but I think he would want the ground to be a little softer to be seen to the best effect.

1.50 Musselburgh – Beau Balko (Win)

Beau Balko seemed to run better than the bare result when finishing second at Hereford last month. His jockey that day Angus Cheleda was nearly unseated halfway around and he lost his irons, so he did well to recover. This time the experienced Harry Cobden is booked for the ride which hopefully will bring out more improvement in him. The six-year-old gelding is ground dependent and the good-to-soft going should be right up his street. If he can get into a nice rhythm I think he’ll be hard to beat.

2.25 Musselburgh – Bertie’s Ballet (Win)

I am going to take a punt on an upset here in the shape of Bertie’s Ballet. He put up a good performance when beating Norman Fletcher at Haydock at the end of December. This track will present a different test for him, but if you go back to his seasonal debut, finishing second behind Favour And Fortune at Wetherby, that’s right up there with the best form. Moreover, he will have the fitness edge on the likes of the favourite Titanium Moon, who hasn’t been seen since the summer. If Rhino racing ambassador Henry Brooke can keep him up the pace, I think he has every chance of going close.

3.00 Musselburgh – Walkool (Each Way)

This is a cracking race with a few Irish raiders trying to book their ticket for the Pertemps Final at Cheltenham next month. The one I am going to go for is Walkool for Nick Alexander. He’s been a consistent performer in this race making the frame over the last two seasons. He’s now 1lb lower than when finishing fourth in this contest last year and he recently bounced back to form with an encouraging second at Ayr. I think he looks overpriced and I’m happy to recommend him each-way. Absolute Notions has some useful graded form from last season and is a intriguing contender for Gordon Elliott, while Emmet Mullins is usually feared in these races as he sends over Almuhit.

3.35 Musselburgh – Thunder Rock (Win)

It’s fair to say that Thunder Rock was disappointing after he was pulled up when sent off as the favourite for the December Gold Cup. I think the ground went against him on that occasion, and Cheltenham isn’t his ideal track. This right-handed setup will play to his strengths, and if he can bounce back to his Carlisle form on his penultimate start, I think he is superior to these rivals, especially when he is on his A-game. Tommy’s Oscar is always a threat at Musselburgh, but he looks to be up against off top-weight, while Outlaw Peter has to be respected for Paul Nicholls.

Bet Of The Day: King Of Kingsfield (Each Way)

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The action just keeps getting better at the Dublin Racing Festival with four Grade 1s at Leopardstown. There is also plenty to delve into at Musselburgh for the second day of their Scottish Cheltenham Trials Meeting. I fancy a few favourites to come unstuck over the Irish Sea this afternoon.
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