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Horse Racing Ireland have cancelled all meetings amid the current coronavirus crisis. Pic: Caroline Norris

Horse Racing Ireland have cancelled all meetings amid the current coronavirus crisis. Pic: Caroline Norris

Horse Racing Ireland have cancelled all meetings amid the current coronavirus crisis. Pic: Caroline Norris

The return of David Mullins is undoubtedly the highlight of this weekend's Irish racing action as the Grand National-winning jockey rides competitively for the first time since a career-threatening fall in October.

Mullins, son of trainer Tom, underwent surgery last autumn to repair fractures in his clavicle and thoracic vertebra (T12) after a crashing fall at Thurles, but having resumed work riding in recent weeks, the 23-year-old returns at Fairyhouse today.

It is great to see Mullins back in the game with two rides for his father, although neither Barnaviddaun in the opening Auction Maiden Hurdle nor Court Maid in the Tommy Carberry Handicap Hurdle are likely to make it a fairytale return.

The Bobbyjo Chase (4.02) is the highlight of the action at the Meath track with Willie Mullins farming the Grade Three contest in recent years, winning the past four renewals and seven from the last nine runnings.

The Closutton maestro saddles four of the six runners, including 2018 winner Bellshill but the 10-year-old has several questions to answer having failed to fire since being pulled up in last year's Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Paul Townend's decision to choose him is noteworthy but the winner may come from outside the Mullins camp with Gordon Elliott's Alpha Des Obeaux (Fairyhouse, 4.02) selected to score.

Davy Russell's mount is ultra-consistent with the Meath trainer priming him for a run in the Aintree Grand National, having finished third over the National fences in the Becher Chase two months ago. His favourable swing at the weights with Bellshill could be telling.

Mullins also makes a four-pronged attack on the Grade Three Norman Colfer Winning Fair Juvenile Hurdle with a quartet of French recruits making their Irish debut, all of which are unknown quantities.

It may pay to side with the form book and John McConnell's Anna Bunina (Fairyhouse, 2.17) ridden by Donal McInerney finished third when pitched into good company on her jumping debut in the Scottish Triumph Hurdle at Musselburgh three weeks ago.

Ferny Hollow (Fairyhouse, 5.12) can take the closing bumper in decent style if Patrick Mullins - in the saddle for his father Willie - can get him to settle.

Having decided to avoid Cheltenham, Elliott's Andy Dufresne (Naas, 3.10) is the headline act at Naas tomorrow in a decent renewal of the Paddy Power Betting Shop Novice Hurdle and will take some beating under Mark Walsh having landed a similar Grade Two contest last month.

The Grade Three WhatOddsPaddy? Chase is another intriguing affair but with few showing any decent form in recent times, it may be wise to stick with last year's winner Cadmium (Naas, 2.10) as Mullins maps out a plan for a potential tilt at the Aintree National.


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