Tuesday 22 August 2017

Mullins targeting Belmont riches with four-strong team

Mullins was delighted to see Shaneshill return to form in winning at Auteuil. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Mullins was delighted to see Shaneshill return to form in winning at Auteuil. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Johnny Ward

Willie Mullins is targeting a major assault on the $400,000 Belmont Gold Cup Invitational on June 9 at Belmont Park in New York, in which he may have four runners.

The champion trainer, fresh from an epic battle for that crown with Gordon Elliott, could run Wicklow Brave, Max Dynamite, Laws Of Spin and Clondaw Warrior in the race, in which he has never previously had a runner.

The legendary handler is aiming for more overseas success after the French victory of Shaneshill last Saturday.

"We'll definitely have runners in the race. Three of our runners got invitations, I understand, and you can look to be a reserve if you are not invited.

"Wicklow Brave certainly has no worries with fitness, after winning the Grade One at Punchestown, and the prize-money is such that it is an attractive race. We'll see how the horses are working before then."

Mullins was delighted to see Shaneshill return to form in winning at Auteuil but a shade mystified by the lifeless effort in the four-year-olds' contest of Meri Devie, which was one of the first beaten.

"She came home fine, so it's hard to know - maybe she just did not have enough experience for the race," he said.

Meanwhile, the senior British handicapper of jumpers, Phil Smith, somehow continues to enjoy headlines in late May, with the ill-fated Many Clouds achieving a mark of 171 for his defeat of Thistlecrack at Cheltenham in January - which rather controversially make him the highest rated three-mile-plus chaser of the season.

The figure puts him above both his victim then and Sizing John, which won the Gold Cup in the absence of both of those foes and the Punchestown equivalent.

Douvan, meanwhile, was crowned the highest-rated National Hunt horse of last season at the Anglo-Irish Jump Classifications yesterday.

The event, hosted by the British Horseracing Authority and Irish Turf Club, also named novice chasers Thistlecrack and Altior as the top of the class in their respective divisions with ratings of 170.

Smith said: "The most significant aspect last season was the aggressive and successful way the top novice chasers were campaigned. The number of novice chasers included at 140-plus was up 18 compared with the previous season."

Vaniteux will race for David Pipe next season. The 158-rated chaser was a Grade Two scorer as a novice, and was twice a winner at Listed level for Nicky Henderson last term.

He has been bought for £125,000 for owner Bryan Drew, who is jointly responsible for the likes of Moon Racer and Un Temps Pour Tout.

While Psychedelic Funk is entered to take on the likes of Washington DC at Haydock on Saturday, trainer Ger Lyons says that he will stay at home.

The speedy son of Choisir, which ran a blinder behind Caravaggio at Naas last Sunday, is entered in the Group Two Armstrong Aggregates Sandy Lane Stakes.

However, Lyons said: "He isn't going but Medicine Jack is. I was very happy with the Funk's run at Naas. He could go to the Ballycorus Stakes next month at Leopardstown for his next start as we think he wants seven furlongs."

Meanwhile, support for Eminent was such yesterday that he could yet challenge for Epsom Derby favouritism on Saturday week. He is now in to 13/2 with Ladbrokes, which makes Cliffs Of Moher - likely to be the mount of Ryan Moore - 7/2 favourite.

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