Sport Horse Racing

Wednesday 21 February 2018

Briar Hill to spearhead Mullins' treble bid at Navan

Ruby Walsh riding Briar Hill winning The Westherbys Champion Bumper during Ladies Day at the 2013 Cheltenham
Ruby Walsh riding Briar Hill winning The Westherbys Champion Bumper during Ladies Day at the 2013 Cheltenham

Press Association

Last season's Cheltenham Champion Bumper winner Briar Hill is one of seven remaining entries in what could prove a top-class renewal of the Navan Novice Hurdle on Sunday.

In its relatively short history the Grade One event has been won by some seriously good prospects including Solerina, Newmill, Aran Concerto, Mikael D'Haguenet and 12 months ago by Pont Alexandre.

Willie Mullins is going for his third successive win in the race after Boston Bob preceded Pont Alexandre, and the champion trainer is well represented with three of the possibles.

Briar Hill won his only race over hurdles to date at Wexford, while Mullins' other possibles, Moyle Park and Valseur Lido, also both won on their only previous experience over obstacles.

Noel Meade has two possibles, with impressive Monksfield Novice Hurdle winner Apache Stronghold and Very Wood and the trainer said of the former: "All going well, he'll run on Sunday and we are looking forward to it. It (Monksfield) looked a good race beforehand, but he made it look very easy.

"If he can put in a complete round of jumping, I'd say he is obviously very good. I don't know what Willie (Mullins) is going to produce, but if we get our horse there well, we'll be happy."


Eoin Griffin's Azorian was second in the Monksfield and needs to make up three lengths, but his trainer would like to see some rain.

Colm Murphy's Empire Of Dirt, second to Faugheen at Navan on Saturday, completes the list. Gigginstown House Stud owns four of the seven runners in Valseur Lido, Azorian, Very Wood and Empire Of Dirt.

Across the water, former Champion Hurdle hero Rock On Ruby is to embark on a career over the larger obstacles after being entered to make a novice chasing debut at Plumpton on Monday.

Prepared by Harry Fry in 2012 when overseeing Paul Nicholls' satellite yard, Rock On Ruby was runner-up to Hurricane Fly when defending his title, but was well beaten by The New One on his seasonal return at Kempton.

"We've been schooling him over fences to see if it was a realistic option and Plumpton represents an opportunity for him to start a new chapter. If he can even be half as good over fences as hurdles, we'll be delighted," said Fry.

Meanwhile, a more upbeat bulletin on St Nicholas Abbey reports the multiple Group One winner to be in "great form" despite a host of problems besetting the six-year-old in his fight to recover from a fractured pastern suffered during the summer.

Last month the three-time Coronation Cup hero faced a "critical" few weeks following the onset of laminitis. A Coolmore statement read: "St Nicholas Abbey remains in great form, despite the ongoing complications of laminitis and is walking as good as can be expected."

Irish Independent

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