Mullins to aim 'dark horse' Un De Sceaux at Navan test
Un De Sceaux, many people's idea of a rare Willie Mullins dark horse for the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham in March, could have another relatively low-key outing at Navan on Sunday after it was unveiled alongside nine other possible starters for a two-mile conditions hurdle.
A dual French bumper winner, Un De Sceaux has been untroubled in three modest hurdle races since joining the champion trainer, latterly routing a paltry three-runner Thurles field at odds of 1/16.
With an official rating of 156, the six-year-old would have upwards of 13lb in hand over the field, but he could still face his stiffest test yet, with Dermot Weld's back-to-form Saturday Cork winner Waaheb (140) among his potential rivals.
Gordon Elliott's Fred Winter 142-rated hero Flaxen Flare and John Ryan's smart chaser Foildubh (143) are others that might at least shake up the unbeaten Un De Sceaux, which trades at between 12/1 and 16/1 in the ante-post market for the prestigious Prestbury Park two-miler.
Mullins has re-entered Upazo for the rescheduled Tolworth Hurdle at Kempton. The improving dual hurdle winner had been declared for the two-mile Grade One prior to Sandown's Saturday card being abandoned due to waterlogging.
The following Saturday, Hidden Cyclone may seek compensation for his narrow defeat to Benefficient in the Grade One Dial-A-Bet Chase at Leopardstown after he appeared among 19 entries for the two-mile-one-furlong Clarence House Chase at Ascot. His trainer John 'Shark' Hanlon appealed the Leopardstown stewards' decision not to award his horse the race after he was hampered in the straight by the winner, but there was no change to the placings.
The nine-year-old is one of three Irish-trained entries in the Sodexo-sponsored Grade One, with Henry De Bromhead responsible for the other two, his shock Aintree victor Special Tiara and the soft ground-loving Days Hotel. Those two are priced up at 11/1 and 16/1 by Paddy Power, with Hidden Cyclone at 10/1 behind 7/4 favourite Sire De Grugy.
Meanwhile, Tim Doyle has suggested that Mallowney, conqueror of Ned Buntline at Naas on Sunday, will be stepped up in grade, with the Irish Arkle at Leopardstown on January 26 and the Flyingbolt at Navan on February 16 two options that he is considering.