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Mullins and Elliott to do battle yet again as Naas hosts its first Grade 1

THE hectic Christmas schedule has come and gone and the new year has been welcomed in but Sunday will see us thrown into the thrust of Grade One action again as Naas host their first race at the highest level. And what a cracker it promises to be.

Sunday's Lawlors Hotel Slaney Hurdle might be a new venture into the upper echelons for Naas but for Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott it is business as usual.


Mullins is one of the finest, if not the very best, trainer we have ever seen and he continues to show that week in, week out and Hurricane Fly's victory last Monday was just the latest example.

You'd be a brave man to predict when he won't be champion trainer again, but you'll get a very short price on his successor at the top of the tree whenever that prospect arises.

Elliott hasn't wasted any time in becoming second best to Mullins and after training an Aintree Grand National winner before he ever knew what an Irish winner's enclosure looked like, he has managed to get himself looking down from the top of the trainers' standings at all his peers bar one in rapid time.

With more Grade One success over Christmas, which saw him bag a fifth big weekend winner in six weeks coming courtesy of Clarcam at Leopardstown, Elliott has every right to feel he can again steal the headlines this weekend.

The entries for the Slaney Hurdle were mouthwatering, and today's declarations didn't disappoint with Elliott's Free Expression, owned by JP McManus, taking on the Gigginstown-owned and Mullins-trained Tell Us More.

But it's not just Mullins and Elliott who warrant attention.

Ted Walsh sent out On Impulse to bolt up in a maiden hurdle at Punchestown and his step up in grade comes with interest as that was only his first start for the trainer and he would be expected to improve again.


This has long been the plan for Free Expression, though, and it's an obvious race for On Impulse.

Elliott's No More Heroes and Mullins' Douvan are two very exciting types who weren't declared but that doesn't take away from the Mullins assualt.

Tell Us More and stable companions Killer Crow and Mckinley will be bidding to give Mullins a remarkable 100th Grade One success in Ireland and 130th in total and the chances are he'll be favourite to do so, but the now familiar sight of Elliott trying to stand in his way will prove for a fascinating race and certainly, if the entries are anything to go by, the Slaney Hurdle is worthy of its Grade One status.