Willie Mullins expected to dominate Dublin Racing Festival

James

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Irish trainer and former jockey Willie Mullins, with his horse Galopin Des Champs, is poised to make a strong impact at the upcoming Dublin Racing Festival (DRF) on February 3-4. The two-day festival presents an impressive prize of over €2 million.

The 2024 DRF features eight Grade 1 races, including the Paddy Power Irish Gold Cup and Goffs Irish Arkle Novice Chase.

Mullins, holding an impressive record with 38 wins in six years, is the favourite for seven out of eight Grade 1 contests at Ireland’s pre-eminent Cheltenham rehearsal. Despite Barry Connell-trained Marine Nationale disrupting Mullins’ dominance in Saturday’s Goffs Irish Arkle, the champion trainer seems well-prepared with Galopin Des Champ set to defend its title in the Irish Gold Cup.

The exceptional horse trained by Mullins claimed victory in this race a year ago and subsequently went on to win the 2023 Cheltenham Gold Cup. Currently, he is the favoured contender for this year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup, which will be held in March.

Galopin Des Champs might have a rematch with old rival Fastorslow, but not with Gerri Colombe, as Gordon Elliott confirmed that it won’t be part of the race for a direct entry into the Cheltenham Gold Cup. The trainer said that his stable star would not compete at Leopardstown to maintain peak form.

Mullins achieved an unprecedented feat with eight victories at last year’s DRF, including six of the top-flight contests. The haul featured a 1,739-1 five-timer on day two.

Richard Johnson shares view on Mullins

Legendary English jockey Richard Johnson provides insights into the upcoming Leopardstown races, emphasising the formidable strength of Mullins and the recent dominance of Irish horses over the British, which he believes remain unchanged.

Johnson expresses anticipation for significant matchups at the Dublin Racing Festival, particularly highlighting the bumper race, which has become a showcase for Ireland’s best bumper horses.

With a keen eye on the Irish Gold Cup, Johnson praised Galopin Des Champs’ performance last year.

“There’s the Irish Gold Cup too. Galopin Des Champs goes, and he was a very good Gold Cup winner at Cheltenham last year. But I think it will be a much stronger race this year,” said the 46-year-old.

Johnson said that the Novice Chase holds promise as Mullins typically hits his stride post-Christmas, likely unveiling a strong contender. According to Johnson, the Dublin Racing Festival could offer a clearer understanding of who the first and second Arkle contenders are.

He further pointed out that after getting Leopardstown out of the way, it becomes evident who the frontrunners are.

Larger attendees than last year

Last year’s DRF drew a record attendance of nearly 35,000 due to the first St Brigid’s Day in 2023, which turned the event into a long weekend, leading to larger crowds than anticipated.

Leopardstown’s chief executive, Tim Husbands, expressed optimism about a potential attendance increase during the Bank Holiday weekend.

It might depend on what the weather is like but no doubt it will assist us. We hope we will match stride for stride last year’s figures which was 40 per cent more than any other DRF

Tim Husbands, Leopardstown’s chief executive.

Husbands also noted that around 27 percent of racegoers were from the UK last year, and he expects a similar or higher percentage this year.

“We’ve been working with our partners Race And Stay and they have seen a significant uplift in their bookings from Britain so I think you’ll be hearing a lot of English, Scottish and Welsh voices around the city this weekend,” he said.

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