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Mullins plans weekend raid

In the space of a couple of hours and at three different racecourses, trainer Willie Mullins will unleash three leading novice hurdlers today, all of whom would have high hopes for the Cheltenham Festival.

In Grade One action at Kempton is Upazo in the Tolworth, while the last of the three to run will be Rathvinden who lines up at Warwick, but domestically at Punchestown it is the current Supreme Novices' Hurdle favourite Vautour who heads the line up in the Grade Two Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle.

Kicking King and Mikael D'Haguenet are the two most notable past winners of the race and we certainly knew a lot more about them when they ran in this race than we currently know about Vautour.

So far all we have seen of the five-year-old by Robin Des Champs on these shores was an almost faultless display in a Navan maiden hurdle last month when he hardly turned a hair in beating an impressive subsequent winner and while he may be taking on some more hardened types in today's feature, Vautour will likely be just a bit above average.

Punchestown are confident that this morning's inspection will be nothing other than a precautionary one as the forecast of frost has cast a little doubt but officials are more than hopeful the meeting will go ahead.

Providing it does get the green light, Bryan Cooper looks to have another good afternoon ahead of him and one in which he will combine both his current and former boss.

Now the main man for Michael O'Leary's Gigginstown House Stud, Cooper has two rides in those maroon colours for Dessie Hughes and both Si C'etait Vrai in the first and Thunder And Roses in the penultimate race would have strong claims of winning.

Si C'etait Vrai probably hasn't fulfilled the potential that was expected when he was a novice hurdler but the eight-year-old should be able to follow up from a decent effort here a fortnight ago to open his account over fences.

His stable companion Thunder And Roses won over hurdles at Thurles last time which was an overdue success and having been given a mark of 120 for that success, he looks like a sort that could well win off that mark.

In the finale, City Slicker gets the nod for Willie Mullins and Paul Townend over Un Beau Matin who Cooper will ride for Gordon Elliott, while Pink Hat is another Mullins runner, on a busy day for the trainer, that looks to have a winning chance.


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