With nine Grade 1 races on the cards across the UK and Ireland, there is a high level of jumping talent being put on show this weekend.
With so many races to keep an eye, we have picked out five contests that you simply cannot miss over an action-packed 48 hours at both Leopardstown and Sandown.
1.35 Leopardstown – Dublin Chase
The Champion Chase favourite Chacun Pour Soi takes on the Ryanair Chase favourite Min in a mouth-watering rematch of last year’s contest. Both trained by Willie Mullins, it was Chacun that came out on top last time out, seeing off his stablemate by 3 ½ lengths in an impressive performance. The season didn’t go to plan for the nine-year old after that, as he was ruled out of the Champion Chase late with injury, while Min went on to secure victory in the Ryanair. Both are talented chasers, and with Henry De Bromhead’s rising star Notebook added to the mix, it has the credentials to be a classic.
1.50 Sandown – Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase
The final British Grade 1 event for this division before the Festival, the Scilly Isles should give further insight for the Novice Chase contests at Prestbury Park. Hitman, who has impressed over fences for Paul Nicholls, is closing in on a maiden Graded success after a strong second in the Henry VIII Novices’ Chase in December. But he takes on Shan Blue, who will be looking for back-to-back Grade 1 victories after landing the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day. Dan Skelton’s seven-year-old has shown his stamina and jumping ability since switching to the larger obstacles, winning all three of his starts over fences. Alan King’s Messire Des Obeaux saw off the progressing Protektorat on his last outing, while the Nicky Henderson-trained Dame De Compagnie will want to follow up on her chase debut victory at Ayr last month. A wide open contest at Sandown that could see a first-time Grade 1 winner.
2.20 Sandown – Cotswold Chase
The rearranged Cheltenham Trials Day fixture temporarily relocates to Surrey for the first time, with a string of potential Gold Cup contenders heading to Sandown. Nicky Henderson’s Santini will be looking to land back-to-back successes in this race, and the nine-year-old was victorious in his only run at this track. He has a point to prove after the disappointing run in the King George over Christmas and will be hoping to return to winning ways before heading to the Festival. Betfair Chase winner Bristol De Mai will be looking to go one better after finishing second last year, while 2018 Gold Cup winner Native River and King George fourth Saint Calvados also feature. An interesting renewal of the Cotswold Chase lies in wait that could kick up some Festival clues.
3.15 Leopardstown – Irish Champion Hurdle
The unbeaten Honeysuckle returns to the Dublin Racing Festival to claim a second Irish Champion Hurdle. Henry De Bromhead’s talented mare is on the cusp of making it 10 wins over hurdles, but she faces some stiff competitions from two of Ireland’s biggest yards. Four-time Grade 1 winner Sharjah spearheads the Willie Mullins triple attack, with Saint Roi and Saldier lining up for the Closutton trainer as well. The field is rounded off with a dual threat from Gordon Elliott with Morgiana Hurdle winner Abracadabras and Petit Mouchoir, who was formally trained by De Bromhead, joining the party as well. An absolute cracker lies in wait.
3.40 Leopardstown (Sunday) – Irish Gold Cup
A five-way battle heads Sunday’s action at Leopardstown, with the Dublin Racing Festival’s feature race presenting an eye-catching contest. Minella Indo will want to get his season back on track after falling in the Savills Chase, and will have to overcome the Willie Mullins’ pair of Kemboy and Melon who both placed in that contest. Last season’s winner Delta Work will be aiming to bounce back to winning ways for Gordon Elliott after a disappointing season so far, while stablemate The Storyteller will be looking for his third Graded success of the season. All five horses have the ability of win this when at their best, which makes this a contest that cannot be missed.