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Irish stars set to showcase their Cheltenham credentials at Leopardstown

The upcoming Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown at the start of February will offer punters some useful form pointers for the Cheltenham Festival the following month.

One of the highlights on the first day of the two-day meeting is the Irish Arkle Novice Chase, which will feature the hugely exciting Marine Nationale.

The Barry Connell trained horse had online betting sites running for cover after he made the prefect start to his chasing career with an emphatic victory at Leopardstown last month.

The 2023 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner was installed as the 4/7 favourite to win the Arkle Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham and it will be a major shock if he fails to get the job done.

Jockey Michael O’Sullivan had an armchair ride aboard the horse over the festive period and believes he will improve further with that run under his belt.

“It was brilliant (at Leopardstown) – I suppose relief more than anything,” O’Sullivan said. “There was a lot of pressure on his first run over fences, but for it to have gone so well was fantastic.

“He’s such an intelligent horse – you can see him looking at all his fences but I suppose until they go and do it on the track, there is still that doubt. He was very, very good.

“It was nice to show people that he is a versatile horse, a straightforward horse. For him to bowl along out in front, it was a lovely performance and, hopefully, he can build on that.

“Obviously, we were all nervous, but we were happy with his work. He took a lot more work this year and I’d say he will come on from it a lot. We are looking forward to Leopardstown again the next day.”

The standout race on day two at the Dublin Racing Festival is undoubtedly the Irish Champion Hurdle, which could feature a rematch between State Man and Impaire Et Passe.

The Willie Mullins trained duo finished first and second in the Matheson Hurdle at Leopardstown over the festive period and could be set to go head-to-head again next month.

State Man is rated as the main obstacle to Constitution Hill’s hopes of winning the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenhamfor the second successive year.

He brushed Impaire Et Passe aside in the Matheson and is strongly fancied to repeat the trick when they lock horns again at the start of next month.

Other notable entries in the race include Lossiemouth, Gala Marceau, Pied Piper, Fils D’oudairies, Bob Olinger and Colonel Mustard.

Elsewhere on the second day of the meeting, trainer Edward O’Grady’s No Flies On Him will bid to continue his rise up the ranks in Tattersalls Ireland 50th Derby Sale Novice Hurdle.

The race has often served as a launchpad for future Cheltenham Festival success and O’Grady is hoping history will repeat itself this year.

No Flies On Him defeated Jango Baie in a point-to-point at Knockanard in February 2023, and that horse has subsequently won two hurdle races for top British trainer Nicky Henderson.

Owner JP McManus specifically purchased No Flies On Him to be trained by O’Grady and the horse could help to put the stable back on the map.

McManus’ racing manager Frank Berry said: “He goes to the Dublin Racing Festival. He has come out of his race well and we’re very happy with him.

“We couldn’t have been happier with him at Leopardstown. He won a maiden hurdle and did it nicely, but he has to step up again now and see where we go.”