By Andrew Atkinson
Leopardstown’s Dublin Festival 2021 features seven races on the Saturday card, highlighted by the Grade 1 Chanelle Pharma Irish Champion Hurdle.
Sunday showcases an eight-race card, headlined by the Paddy Power Irish Gold Cup.
Leading trainers Willie Mullins, Gordon Elliott, Henry de Bromhead, Jessica Harrington, Joseph O’Brien and jockeys Paul Townend, Rachael Blackmore, Jack Kennedy and Mark Walsh are in the spotlight.
The two-day behind closed doors meeting on February 6-7 goes ahead during the coronavirus pandemic, under the Irish government’s exemption for elite sport.
Leopardstown will see the final preparation, ahead of the Cheltenham Festival in March, showcasing Ireland’s most prestigious races, with prizemoney totalling €1.85m; cut from €2.15m in 2020, due to the sponsorship impact of the coronavirus.
On the coronavirus front British-trained horses are set to miss out due to the difficulties of travelling during the pandemic. Leopardstown chief executive Tim Husbands said it is ‘highly unlikely’ the 2021 Dublin Festival will have runners from across the Irish Sea.
Their are eight Grade 1 races, the most valuable being the €150,000 Chanelle Pharma Irish Champion Hurdle on Saturday and the €200,000 Paddy Power Irish Gold Cup on Sunday.
The Irish Champion Hurdle entries include 2020 winner Honeysuckle, trained by Henry de Bromhead and ridden by Rachael Blackmore.
Unbeaten mare Honeysuckle goes head-to-head with Sharjah, stablemate Aspire Tower; Cheltenham Festival winner Saint Roi and Supreme Novices’ Hurdle runner-up Abacadabras.
The Irish Gold Cup – one of the most sought-after prizes in jumping – which has given pointers ahead of the Cheltenham Gold Cup, has been won by Carvill’s Hill, Jodami, Imperial Call, Beef Or Salmon, Sizing John and record-breaking four-time winner Florida Pearl.
Minella Indo bids to make amends after falling in the Savills Chase in December. Kemboy, Melon, Delta Work, Castlebawn West and Presenting Percy are also noted.
Chacun Pour Soi is entered in the Grade 1 Ladbrokes Dublin Chase on Saturday. Energumene, trained by Willie Mullins, is noted in the Irish Arkle Novice Chase on Saturday.
Sunday’s card includes the Tattersalls Ireland Spring Juvenile Grade 1 and The Chanelle Pharma Novice Hurdle. Cheltenham hope Monkfish is entered in the Grade 1 Flogas Novice Chase.
LEOPARDSTOWN fromthehorsesmouth.info selections: 1.05 Gaillard Du Mesnil. 1.35 Min. 2.10 Energumene. 2.45 Entoucas (ew). 3.15 Honeysuckle. 3.50 Hes A Hardy Bloke (ew). 4.25 Kilcruit.