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Des on track for Durkan: Mullins

NEXT month's potentially mouth-watering clash of Flemenstar and Sir Des Champs in the John Durkan at Punchestown appears to be still very much on the cards after Willie Mullins yesterday admitted he was pleased with his dual Cheltenham Festival winner.

Unlike Flemenstar, who made a winning seasonal return at Navan earlier this month, Mullins has yet to run Sir Des Champs out of novice company, but does hope to get the six-year-old on track shortly.

The champion trainer said yesterday: "Sir Des Champs is coming along nicely and, hopefully, he will make his seasonal reappearance in the John Durkan Chase at Punchestown. I have been much more pleased with him in the last few days."


Mullins wasn't overly keen to nominate him as a Gold Cup horse quite yet, and tentatively added: "Lots of horses are good novices and when they take on the older horses they just don't measure up - I'm going to wait and see."

After an uncharacteristically quiet spell, the Mullins team hit top form over the weekend with five winners on Sunday, one of which was Hurricane Fly in the Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown and he returned to the gallops yesterday morning.

"Paul rode him out this morning and he seems fine after his win but it often takes three or four days before something might pop up, but fingers crossed he looks good.

"Hopefully, I will follow the same route as I did when he was lucky enough to win at Cheltenham, going back to Leopardstown twice."

Another of the five winners from Sunday was Cheltenham Festival winner Champagne Fever, who made a winning start to his hurdling career when impressively landing the maiden hurdle at Cork.

The dual Grade One bumper winner is now likely to step back up to that level over hurdles within the next month.

Mullins revealed: "He came out of his race well and he's entered in the Royal Bond and the Navan Hurdle, one is two-miles and the other is two and a half but you'd have to say the Navan Hurdle over two and a half miles, which was formerly the Barry and Sandra Kelly, would look the obvious one.

"However we will wait and see how well he comes out of last weekend and see what is going to run in the Royal Bond before we make a final decision."

Boston Bob is just another of the plethora of talented novices at Mullins' disposal for the season and he holds an entry for Beginners Chases at both Gowran Park and Navan over the weekend, although his debut over fences may be put on hold momentarily.

"Ruby (Walsh) rode Boston Bob in a bit of work yesterday and he seemed very pleased with him. He is entered at the weekend but I might just take another week with him. I'm looking forward to him as a novice chaser this season."

Mullins' good run of form continued at Fairyhouse yesterday where he saddled a double on the card, including the opening three-year-old maiden hurdle, with Blood Cotil, who justified his short price to run out a 17-length winner and earn a quote of 25/1 from Paddy Power for the Triumph Hurdle next year.

The double was completed by Twigline, who was also odds-on and who carried the now-famous colours of the Hammer And Trowel Syndicate, which are responsible for Quevega and Thousand Stars.