It’s full steam ahead to a magical weekend of racing at the inaugural Dublin Racing Festival, with no less than FIVE Grade 1 races on the final day of this exciting event. The jewel in the crown is the 2018 edition of the Irish Gold Cup, which promises to once again be a cracking contest. From unexposed returnees to likeable veterans, this race has it all and will give us plenty of clues towards the Cheltenham Festival. As always, there are trends we can try and follow to help deduce the winner and we believe we’ve found the key ones down below. You can also read our expert Antepost Preview of the 2018 Irish Gold Cup on site now!
The trends pick is a toss up for this year’s renewal, with Our Duke the first horse to fit the bill. A Grade 1 winner who has taken victories at this trip and beyond, he will be looking to wipe away the memory of his flop on seasonal return. The other from a trends perspective would be Djakadam, who is another who arrives here with a point to prove. A multiple Grade 1 winner who has gone close in three Gold Cups, he was pulled up in the Lexus Chase on his latest start. He faces some up and coming horses at a trip potentially further than his best on this ground, but he’s impossible to rule out.
A race that can give us some big clues towards the Cheltenham Gold Cup, plenty of these horses will have aspirations for National Hunts biggest week in March. For Our Duke, this race is about redemption after he flopped in the Champion Chase at Down Royal on his return. He jumped poorly and you could tell he had shot his bolt a long way from home, leaving him with something to prove here. A Grade 1 winner over fences, he has won twice at three miles and beyond which fits the trends perfectly. He’s run five times over fences, winning on three occasions, which is another tick in terms of the statistics. Although not running in the Lexus, he should strip fitter from his Down Royal run and he’s an obvious contender if anywhere near his best.
A horse who does need to prove himself at Grade 1 level is Anibale Fly, who has been a mixed bag over fences. He looked to have come good though when storming clear to win the Paddy Power Chase over the extended three miles here in December. This is obviously a big step up in grade for him and previous visits to Grade 1/2 level have not been as fruitful as expected. That said, he’s clearly improved this season and should have further potential left in him as he bids to give Tony Martin his first Irish Gold Cup.
The talking horse in the race is Killultagh Vic, who is unbeaten over fences and looked to be potentially very smart when remarkably getting back up to win a Grade 2 over 2m 3f here in January 2016. He has had his problems since, but he returned in triumphant style when winning well at Punchestown on his comeback over timber. He returns to fences as a completely unexposed quantity and a step up to three miles promises to suit him massively. That said, the trends are certainly against him, yet to win at over three miles and he’s only run twice over fences. He’s obviously yet to win a Grade 1, but he’s not had a crack at one up until now and despite the trends, he’s impossible to rule out.
This feels like a make or break race for Djakadam, who once again failed to lift the Cheltenham Gold Cup at the Festival back in March. A very smart horse on his day, it was hugely disappointing to see him pull up in the Lexus Chase over the Festival period here. At this stage, he’s obviously a very experienced chaser who has plenty of Grade 1 experience which fits the trends well. The issue for him is current form and whether he can hold back three potential improvers, especially at a trip that looks further than his best.
Of the remainder, Outlander is an obvious danger as a multiple Grade 1 winner, but being a ten year old is a negative for the trends. His inconsistent profile is another concern, as he can pop up with some disappointing runs on occasion. He was far from disgraced in the Lexus Chase on his latest start, but this looks tougher and he’d be only the second horse since 2008 to win this race at the age of ten. Strong stayer Minella Rocco lacks the Grade 1 victory that many of his rivals have and in fact, he’s now 1/12 over fences. He was well held behind the aforementioned Outlander in the Lexus Chase on his latest outing and he should have his day on better ground over further.