Min on the march in Moscow Flyer at Punchestown
Published 08/01/2016 | 13:46
The much-vaunted Min puts his huge reputation on the line in the Sky Bet Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle at Punchestown on Saturday.
Even allowing for the fact he is trained by the all-conquering Willie Mullins and carries the colours of leading owner Rich Ricci, the hype the five-year-old has attracted in recent months has been nothing short of extraordinary.
After all, Min was already prominent in ante-posts lists for the Supreme Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham prior to his Irish debut at Punchestown a month ago.
Min did not let his supporters down with a dazzling display and is now the general 5-2 favourite for the Cheltenham Festival curtain-raiser ahead of his appearance in this Grade Two contest, won by Supreme-winning stable companions Vautour and Douvan for the last two years.
Patrick Mullins, the trainer's son and assistant, said: " He came out of his last run well and he obviously won the race quite easily.
"It was great he showed on the track what he'd been showing us at home, as that isn't always the case - it's not that straightforward, unfortunately.
"For whatever reason, there's been a lot of excitement about the horse, so I suppose it was a relief as much as anything to see him go and do it on the racecourse."
Both Vautour and Douvan obliged as odds-on favourites for this prize following just one previous victory in Ireland and it would be a major surprise if Min does not follow suit, but the Mullins camp are taking nothing for granted.
"This will be a completely different test," said Patrick Mullins.
"He's taking on a couple of Gigginstown (House Stud-owned) horses that have won races, so he'll need to step up.
"But he's going back to a track he's won at before and this race has been a good pointer for us the last couple of years with Vautour and Douvan, so hopefully he can go and do it as well.
"Like Vautour and Douvan were at this stage, Min is unexposed.
"He has the same sire as Douvan (Walk In The Park), but it is tough to compare them.
"Vautour and Douvan both won their first races for us and stepped up - now Min has to do the same."
The French import will undoubtedly be a warm order to dispatch four rivals in the two-mile contest.
Gigginstown are represented by Henry de Bromhead's Attribution and the Gordon Elliott-trained Ball D'Arc, with outsiders Tongie and Gars Bar Dine completing the field.