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Chief can go distance to boost Mullins tally

With 10 of his last 15 runners having obliged prior to this weekend, rival handlers needn't expect much respite from Willie Mullins at Navan tomorrow.

The champion trainer has five exceptional chances on the seven-race spread, and the only reason this correspondent could cite for taking any of them on would be for the sake of balance. Given the health of the Closutton string, that seems a futile strategy.

Mullins introduces a full-brother to the ill-fated Lovethehigherlaw, raise hell, in the bumper under his son Patrick, while Ruby Walsh steers the other four.

Of that quartet, So Young probably has the simplest task in the four-runner Follow Navan On Facebook Hurdle, though Charles Byrnes' improving Trifolium is respected.

Terminal, a three-time bumper winner in France, and Are Ya Right Chief are fancied in their respective maiden hurdles, with the nap going the way of the latter horse in the two-mile-seven-furlong edition.

Knockgraffon King, second ahead of the subsequent winner Dont Back Down at Navan before Christmas, ought to ensure that the selection doesn't have things entirely his own way now that he steps up in trip.

Nonetheless, Are Ya Right Chief, likewise up in distance now, only failed to reel in Golanbrook by the narrowest of margins on his hurdling bow at Gowran Park.

That was a performance full of promise, so he's entitled to go one better now.

Bagber, a maiden hurdle winner prior to running a superb race in defeat when third on unsuitably quick going at Punchestown in May, is also expected to prove difficult to beat for the all-conquering partnership in the beginners' chase, while Robert Tyner's Tullintain is fancied in the handicap chase.

With a first prize of €17,875, this is the most valuable pot on offer, and the nine runners are headed by Peter Casey's Jack The Bus.

That one ran well when bidding for back-to-back Troytown victories in November, but Tullintain remains somewhat unexposed over fences. Second to Ted Walsh's progressive Seabass at Limerick over Christmas, the nine-year-old is a consistent sort, and was a winner at Punchestown this time last year under tomorrow's in-form rider Philip Enright.

Irish Independent