There’s a new kid on the block this season when it comes to racing festivals, with this cracking offering from Leopardstown. Bringing together the Irish Champion Hurdle and Irish Gold Cup cards in a two-day National Hunt extravaganza makes for an excellent spectacle and is a welcome addition to the calendar.

There’s certainly a dearth of British entries over this two-day meeting, but that needn’t necessarily detract too much from the quality on offer, or for that matter the relevance of the contests when looking ahead to the Cheltenham Festival – we should after all remember that 19 of the 28 contests at last year’s March showpiece were landed by an Irish-trained runner. These are all excellent prizes in their own right though, and here we pick out our best bets on the opening day.

1:10pm – Nathaniel Lacy & Partners Solicitors Novice Hurdle (Grade 1) – 2m6f

Dortmund Park each way

The shape of this market largely depends upon the presence, or otherwise, of one of the most talked about runners in Irish racing, namely the Gordon Elliott-trained Samcro. He may well go here, but equally may revert back to two-miles for the Deloitte Novice Hurdle. As such, the sensible option looks to be to take an each way approach to the opener.

The one to side with is another of the Elliott runners, Dortmund Park. The heavy ground was said to be a concern prior to his latest start in a Novice contest at Thurles, and yet he still hacked up by 16 lengths. The slightly better ground here should be in his favour and whilst this is a step up in class, he looked a Graded performer in the making that day and gets his chance to prove it here.

1:45pm – Coral Dublin Chase (Grade 2) – 2m1f

Yorkhill to win at 5/6 with Ladbrokes

If the rumour mill is to be believed, our second race represents the last chance saloon when it comes to fences for the talented but enigmatic Yorkhill. We do fancy him to get the job done here however.

Main market rival Min was seriously underwhelming when first past the post before being relegated to second last time out in a Grade 1 here, and Yorkhill’s overall record over fences is really pretty solid. Three from five over the larger obstacles to date, that would be four from five but for his crazy antics when going down narrowly to Road To Respect last term. His effort last time can be forgiven due to the three mile trip and he is in a decent position to get back on track in this one.

2:20pm – Frank Ward Solicitors Arkle Novice Chase (Grade 1) – 2m1f

Petite Mouchoir to win at 11/4 with Bet365

One of the chasing stars of the season to date takes to the track next as the Willie Mullins runner Footpad takes his next step towards the Cheltenham Festival. It’s hard not to have been impressed by the scintillating jumping the six year old has displayed in landing his two most recent outings by a combined 22 lengths, but this looks much his toughest task to date.

In the Henry de Bromhead runner, Petite Mouchoir, Footpad is meeting a horse who he failed to master in three starts over hurdles, and there possibly shouldn’t be quite so much between the pair’s prices here. Petite Mouchoir made an encouraging start of his own over the larger obstacles when winning as he liked at Punchestown and is taken to land a small upset.

2:55pm – Sandyford Handicap Chase (Grade B) – 2m1f

Nearly Nama’d each way at 10/1 with Coral

The first of the meeting’s handicaps is up next in what looks an extremely competitive affair. Blast Of Koeman has been run consistently well this term and ought to go well for Robert Tyner, whilst Tully East is handicapped to win but may be seen to best effect on better ground. That’s A Wrap is another for the shortlist, but preference here is for another of the JP McManus runners.

Augustine Leahy’s Nearly Nama’d was a strong fancy to defend his crown in the recent Dan Moore Memorial Handicap. It therefore looks interesting that he has instead been kept fresh for a tilt at this. Whilst he is up 10lbs for his latest five and a half length success at Fairyhouse, he looked right back to his best that day, with the smooth manner in which he travelled through the contest impressing. We fancy he has a bit up his sleeve yet and he can at least make the frame.

3:30pm – BHP Insurance Irish Champion Hurdle (Grade 1) – 2m

Faugheen to win at 6/4 with Ladbrokes

If the real Faugheen shows up in the day’s feature contest, the rest of the runners will quite simply be playing for second. The 2015 Champion Hurdle winner is 13lbs clear on official ratings, and on all known form is in a different league to these at his best. Following a first ever pulled up effort last time out in the Ryanair Hurdle though, the conundrum facing punters is which Faugheen will turn up on Saturday? Overall though, we don’t think he would be risked here if Willie Mullins wasn’t totally happy with him and the 6/4 on offer looks a perfectly fair price about what is much the best horse in the race. Take “The Machine” to kick back into gear.

Should Faugheen disappoint, Melon would seem the best placed to take advantage following a solid third in the International Hurdle last time. Defi Du Seuil needs to show he has trained on following a flop on his return, so the underrated Mick Jazz may prove best of the rest.

4:05pm – Coral Hurdle (Grade B Handicap) – 2m

Trainwreck each way at 10/1 with BetVictor

This hasn’t been the easiest of races to predict in recent years, with only one of the winners in the past decade returning at single figure odds. That said, we do have a couple of decent trends in evidence to assist with our selection. Firstly, not one of the past 10 winners has carried more than 10st 10lb, and secondly seven of the winners over this period have been aged either six or seven.

Of those to fit the bill, the one we like is the Henry de Bromhead runner, Trainwreck. This Gigginstown runner is up 10lb for his win last time out over this course and distance, but he did it so easily that day that we may not have reached his peak rating just yet.

4:40pm – Goffs Future Stars (C & G) I.N.H. Flat Race (Grade 2) – 2m

Rhinestone each way

As the race title would suggest, there very well might be a future star or two in the line-up of our finale. Rapid Escape makes plenty of appeal for Gordon Elliott having won his three most recent starts in good style.

At what will hopefully be a bigger price though, the one to side with is Joseph O’Brien’s son of Montjeu, Rhinestone. This one put in a hugely classy display when running away with a bumper by 19 lengths last time out, and whilst this looks much tougher, we wouldn’t be at all surprised were he to prove up to the task.