I was in attendance on Day 2 of the Dublin Racing Festival. Chacun Pour Soi bounced back to form to complete a hat-trick of victories in the Ladbrokes Dublin Chase at Leopardstown. Willie Mullins' runner was on a retrieval mission after proving a bitter disappointment when last in the Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown in December. However, back on familiar ground at Leopardstown, Chacun Pour Soi comprehensively reversed the form with Tingle Creek winner Greaneteen as he strolled to victory under Paul Townend. The 4-7 favourite was content to take a lead from Dunvegan in the early stages, while Bryony Frost elected to take the inside route in Greaneteen, racing alone throughout the Grade One heat. He was clearly in trouble at the third-last though as Chacun Pour Soi started to move through the gears, with Dunvegan and Captain Guinness trying to go with him. But Chacun Pour Soi was just too good and he was well clear coming to the last, with a fine leap sealing an impressive return to winning ways. Dunvegan was second with Captain Guinness third, with Greaneteen dropping right away to finish last of the five runners.
Chacun Pour Soi is an enigma wrapped in a conundrum. I was so impressed with him, but you can't help but think about his UK record. Willie Mullins said afterwards that he does not travel well on the ferry to the UK. Willie Mullins seems to be aware of it and will have a plan. Chacun Pour Soi is every bit as good ability-wise as Shiskin and Energumene. At 13/2 Chacun Pour Soi makes some appeal it looks big, however, it's that UK record that is off-putting. Maybe Rich Ricci would consider flying him.
Sir Gerhard took his unbeaten record over jumps to two as he made all the running to win the Tattersalls Ireland Novice Hurdle. The Willie Mullins-trained seven-year-old only made his debut over the smaller obstacles on this course over Christmas, but was able to land the odds despite jumping poorly at times. Sent off the 8-13 favourite, Sir Gerhard - winner of the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham last year - was in front Three Stripe Life from flagfall and nothing else got into the race. A couple of errors down the back straight gave Three Stripe Life half a chance, but he could not capitalise. The second-last obstacle was omitted due to the low sun and Sir Gerhard sealed victory by jumping the last much better than his nearest pursuer. Paul Townend was able to take it easy on Sir Gerhard who went on to score by six lengths. Colonel Mustard was the same distance away with a good effort in third.
Sir Gerhard has some engine his jumping was sloppy here. That being said Sir Gerhard still won in really good style. I am thinking he jumped much better at Christmas if Sir Gerhard jumps like that he is a huge player at Cheltenham. I would like to see Sir Gerhard go for the Ballymore. I think he would win it.
Galopin Des Champs dominated his rivals to land a spectacular success in the Ladbrokes Novice Chase. Willie Mullins' charge was sent off the 4-9 favourite after an impressive chasing bow at the Dublin track over Christmas - and victory barely looked in doubt from a distance out in the two-mile-five-furlong Grade One feature. Galopin Des Champs was settled in second by Paul Townend with French Dynamite setting the pace and his task was slightly eased when Capodanno unseated his rider at the fifth before Beacon Edge fell at the next fence. Fury Road then made a terrible error at the fourth-last, but Galopin Des Champs was already firmly in control and while Master McShee and fellow Mullins inmate Gaillard Du Mesnil tried to make a race of it, the winner was in another league. A clever leap at the last sealed victory, with Master McShee keeping on admirably to finish a nine-length second, with Gaillard Du Mesnil a further five lengths back in third.
I really like Galopin Des Champs he looks the real deal. They went really hard here down the back straight. Galopin Des Champs jumped out of Paul Townends hands. He is brave no question, hopefully in the cauldron that is Cheltenham that bravery will not be a minus. It looks like he will go to the 3 miles (festival chase old RSA). Bravemansgame will be there who is a really nice horse. Galopin Des Champs to my eyes is an incredible prospect. I expect him to win at Cheltenham.
The 9/2 favourite Birchdale, with UL student Mark McDonagh on board, was the winner in the Bulmers Secret Orchard Leopardstown Handicap Chase, finishing ahead of Foxy Jacks and Winter Escape. This was another great job by team McManus. Birchdale could be one for the Festival plate with a brilliant record over two and a half miles. Party Central was always travelling like a winner in the Grade B mares’ handicap hurdle. Davy Russell asked her to improve after the second-last and she moved up smoothly to track the leaders racing towards the final flight. Party Central looks a good prospect mares’ novice hurdle at Cheltenham. Call Me Lyreen became the first non-favourite to win on day two of the Dublin Racing Festival when landing the Liffey Handicap Hurdle at odds of 20/1. Davy Russell rode a waiting race making good headway on the run to the final flight. Hitting the front on the run-in, the six-year-old went away to beat stablemate Magic Tricks.
Honeysuckle took her unbeaten record to 14 when winning the Chanelle Pharma Irish Champion Hurdle for a third time at Leopardstown. Henry de Bromhead's brilliant mare powered away from her four rivals under Rachael Blackmore after jumping the second-last flight to secure her 10th Grade One success. It was a straightforward triumph for the eight-year-old, who will defend her Champion Hurdle crown at Cheltenham next month. The early pace was set by Heaven Help Us with Zanahiyr, who made a bad mistake at the first hurdle, close up in second place. There was little change in the order until Blackmore made her move on Honeysuckle after jumping the third-last. The 1-5 shot moved supremely into the lead and put several lengths between herself and the opposition to quickly put the race to bed.
Honeysuckle went on to score by six and a half lengths from Zanahiyr, with Echoes In Rain staying on for third place. De Bromhead said: "Brilliant, it's absolutely brilliant. They were great again, the pair of them. I'm delighted."She looked great, jumped well I thought throughout - maybe went a little bit left at one of them - but winged the second-last and took off again."It felt a long straight after the last, but she was brilliant and we're delighted."It was great, aren't we lucky to have her?"Just the atmosphere here today has been amazing."
It was a superb occasion to see Honeysuckle winning. It was what the crowd came to see. Everything in your mind as a punter says to try to take Honeysuckle on at Cheltenham. But with what is the answer. It could be Appreciate It, but with no prep run, it's unappealing. Heaven Help Us makes plenty of appeal for the mares hurdle at Cheltenham, I very much want to be with her on the day. Echoes In Rain is another to note.
Racing needs a star the young racing fans love everything about Honeysuckle she is their champion. I and my brother stood on the balcony and watched the celebrations. The younger fans piled in around the parade ring as close as they could, roaring for Blackmore and Honeysuckle. Pat Healy the legendary racecourse photographer conducting the cheerleading.
My nephew Daniel loves Honeysuckle he is fanatical about her and indeed Rachael Blackmore. It reminds me of my younger days of following, Danoli, Klairon Davis, Istabraq, Florida Pearl and Moscow Flyer. These horses light the fuse of a lifelong passion. I really hope Honeysuckle wins at Cheltenham and young Daniel gets his chance to cheer his hero into the Cheltenham winners enclosure.