Vroum Vroum should stay up to speed
Willie Mullins appears to have eschewed a more adventurous route with Vroum Vroum Mag for now by declaring his star mare for a modest hurdle race at Clonmel today.
Unbeaten and untroubled in six outings over fences for the indomitable champion trainer, the six-year-old French import had been a leading Hennessy Gold Cup fancy.
However, a delayed seasonal return scuppered the prospect of her running at Newbury last weekend, and possible Grade Two assignments against the boys this Sunday in either the Hilly Way Chase at Cork or the Peterborough Chase now also look like being passed over, although she is still entered in the Huntingdon race.
For the average racing fan, it is undoubtedly a little disappointing not to see Vroum Vroum Mag pitched in against the boys and maybe out of her comfort zone. As it is, she has her first start for Mullins over flights in a €20,000 mares' conditions hurdle.
Notwithstanding that the likes of Rock On The Moor, Kates Benefit and Mrs Mac Veale are fair sorts on their day, Vroum Vroum Mag receives weight from them here. She shouldn't come off the bridle under Ruby Walsh if she can translate her chase form even remotely, and the hope would be that more ambitious assignments lie ahead.
Mullins and his son Patrick are also tipped to take the concluding amateur riders' maiden hurdle with Yorkhill. There is more depth than strength to this, but Yorkhill is a pretty serious staying prospect. A point-to-point winner a year ago, the Presenting gelding landed both of its bumpers in impressive style at Gowran Park and Punchestown. This two-and-a-half-mile contest looks an ideal starting point for him on his return over flights, so he should continue his winning spree.
In the opening maiden, Mullins will saddle another French import in Bello Conti, but it is another Gigginstown Stud-owned four-year-old that is the one to keep on side. Bryan Cooper has opted for the Gordon Elliott-trained Ball D'Arc. While there may be an element of his simply sticking with Elliott for what is probably a marginal call, Ball D'Arc's credentials are obvious.
Another point-to-point winner, he left behind two disappointing bumper outings last term to impress on his reappearance at Thurles. He has clearly matured and is nap material to make a winning debut over timber now.
In the beginners' chase, Jim Dreaper's Venitien De Mai is preferred over Gigginstown's Nickname Exit. Venitien De Mai crashed at the last fence when still in contention on his chasing bow at Thurles, so he warrants another go.