French test on the cards for Mullins' De Sceaux
WILLIE Mullins has confirmed that exciting hurdler Un De Sceaux is on target to run in France this weekend.
The exciting six-year-old, unbeaten in all his seven races under Rules to date, was denied the chance to run in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham as Mullins felt it would be asking too much of him at this stage in his career.
Given Mullins' strength in depth in the hurdling department, with Hurricane Fly and Annie Power on the team, it is no surprise Mullins has looked for a different option for his rising star.
"Un De Sceaux goes to France this weekend, all being well," the champion trainer stated.
"It's a Grade Three race over two-mile-three. I haven't looked at the ground, but I'd imagine there will be plenty of give. He's going to France, I haven't thought about Punchestown for him yet."
With Ruby Walsh currently injured, the likelihood is that Paul Townend – also sidelined since a fall on the last day of Cheltenham – will take the mount provided he makes a smooth return to action at Cork on Thursday.
Sam Twiston-Davies got the leg-up on the veteran Tidal Bay, with Noel Fehily partnering Rocky Creek in the two-mile workout at the Somerset venue. Nicholls also took a few other members of his Ditcheat string to give them a working day out as part of preparations for Aintree early next month.
"I just took them to work at Wincanton and I was very happy with them, no problems at all," said Nicholls.
"They didn't jump any fences. It was basically just a day out for them. They just did two miles and enjoyed themselves. They went with several of our other horses who are running at Aintree."
Tidal Bay is a general 16/1 chance for the National, with Rocky Creek available as high as 25/1. However, David Pipe's Midlands Grand National winner Goulanes will not run at Aintree.
The Roger Brookhouse-owned eight-year-old has been roughed off for the season and will return next winter with the Liverpool contest as his major target.
"He was fine after the race, but has now gone back to his owner's for a holiday and appeals as a likely type for the race next season," said Pipe.
"That means that we will probably be three-handed in the National on Saturday week, with Our Father, The Package and old favourite Swing Bill likely to represent the Pond House team."
Tony McCoy – who is due to ride 2012 runner-up Sunnyhillboy in the big race – is to take a few days off in a bid to be right for this year's meeting after two heavy falls at Cheltenham.
"I am still a bit stiff and sore in the back," said the record-breaking jockey, "but I hope to be back on Saturday."
There was good news for the Irish Grand National yesterday when it was announced that Boylesports will sponsor this year's Fairyhouse showpiece.
The April 21 feature – won last year by Dot Love's outsider Liberty Counsel – will this year have a prize fund of €250,000.
Meanwhile, Kildare native Leighton Aspell is on course to smash his previous best tally of winners and edged one closer thanks to the victory of Spyder at Towcester yesterday.
Aspell rode 59 winners in 2002-03, and Spyder's win took him to 58 for the current campaign – which so nearly included a Cheltenham Festival triumph.
Oliver Sherwood's Deputy Dan was clear approaching the final flight in the Albert Bartlett only to be caught by Very Wood, a race that is still painful to the jockey.
"I thought we'd done enough but I could feel him emptying 100 yards before the last. I was gutted. He's going to be some horse for the future, though, and I think Oliver is favouring Punchestown rather than Aintree," Aspell said.
Spyder was a welcome change of fortune for trainer Lucy Wadham, who took her stable star Baby Shine over to Limerick for a Graded race last week only to see her fall at the final fence when leading.
Wadham's charge was sent off at 9/2 having finished second on his hurdling debut at Southwell, form boosted by the third Brave Vic, which won the EBF Final for Gary Moore.
Spyder survived a scare at the first flight when he jumped markedly to his left but he outstayed Such A Legend to win by two and a quarter lengths.