Brain Power looks danger to Un De Sceaux treble bid
English raids have been far less frequent for Willie Mullins this season as he instead opts to keep his stable stars on these shores but the champion trainer sends Un De Sceaux to Ascot tomorrow as he bids for a hat-trick of wins in Grade One Clarence House Chase.
The brilliant ten-year-old, twice a winner at the Cheltenham Festival and reigning Ryanair Chase hero, will take on just four rivals but strong support for Nicky Henderson's Brain Power (8/1 to 5/2) suggests punters expect that there is an intriguing top-level duel in store.
A bloodless 25-length victory on his seasonal return at Cork last month left Mullins purring and a hat-trick of wins would see Un De Sceaux, odds-on favourite to prevail, elevated above Master Minded as the most successful horse in the race's history.
The fly in the ointment may be Brain Power, however. Admitting his presence may be an "odd thing to do" given his novice status, Henderson bids to make it another famous day after he sent out four winners last Saturday on the same day as his wedding.
The seven-year-old, which was eighth in last year's Champion Hurdle behind stablemate Buveur D'Air, has only had two starts over fences and was unseated at Cheltenham last month while Nigel Hawke's Speredek, the Paul Nicholls-trained San Benedeto and Harry Fry's Kylemore Lough look to be fighting it out for the minor places.
Mullins has also given star hurdler Faugheen a tentative entry in the Stayers' Hurdle at Cheltenham although the 2015 Champion Hurdle hero is likely to once again tackle the shorter trip should he come through his return at Dublin's Racing Festival unscathed.
Elsewhere, the fallout surrounding the Labour Court's decision to dismiss Ballydoyle's appeal against compliance notices issued by the Workplace Relations Commission looks set to rumble on with many trainers venting their frustration with the ruling.
The compliance notices surround the failure to give grooms and exercise riders at Aidan O'Brien's Ballydoyle stables rest periods which they were legally entitled to and were issued in February 2017 after inspections carried out at the training establishment in 2016. The court found that staff in racing stables are no longer covered under the term 'agricultural workers', which has caused great angst among trainers with Noel Meade, chairman of the Irish Racehorse Trainers Association (IRTA), and veteran Curragh handler Dermot Weld voicing their concerns.
They fear that many trainers could be forced to leave racing if a solution is not found and the IRTA and Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) are set to meet next week in an attempt to seek a remedy.
History will be made across the water today when four horses who have undergone wind surgery since last racing will carry the 'w' prefix beside their name following the British Horseracing Authority's decision that trainers must inform the regulator prior to making a declaration when any horse which has previously raced has been treated surgically.
Today is the first day it comes into action and all eyes will be on Alberobello (3.20 Chepstow), Dancing Amy (1.45 Musselburgh), Dr Hooves (4.00 Musselburgh) and Wimpole (4.00 Musselburgh) as they take their place with all wind information available to punters and racegoers in the interests of openness and transparency.
Meanwhile, Enda Bolger has led the tributes to cross-country great Spot Thedifference, which will always be associated with the late jockey John Thomas McNamara, saying that he "used to get a great kick out of watching him and John Thomas in action", after the seven-time Cheltenham winner passed away at the age of 25 at owner JP McManus's Martinstown Stud in Limerick.