Friday 18 January 2019

Classy 'Field' can flourish for Mullins

Trainer Willie Mullins. Photo: PA
Trainer Willie Mullins. Photo: PA
Michael Verney

Michael Verney

A possible tilt at last week's Cheltenham Champion Chase had been mooted a few months back for Great Field but instead Willie Mullins' exciting chaser makes his seasonal reappearance on a cracking Navan card today.

The bold front-runner, which will once again be partnered by Jody McGarvey, is unbeaten in four starts over fences - headlined by Grade One success at last year's Punchestown Festival when running his rivals ragged - and a similar display is expected in the Grade Two Bookmakers Webster Cup (3.35).

Great Field has been likened in some quarters to stablemate Un de Sceaux but the JP McManus-owned seven-year-old will need to be foot-perfect once again as he returns from 330 days off at the Meath track.

Doctor Phoenix is a worthy foe, having scored on three occasions since joining Gordon Elliott for just over €10,000 and this has been the plan since taking a Grade Three at Naas last month when the re-opposing Alisier D'Irlande and American Tom were well beaten in behind.

It's hard to ignore the impression which Great Field left during his novice campaign, however, and while race fitness might not be up to scratch, he should still have enough in the tank to reward punters.

An intriguing seven-race card also includes the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Novice Handicap Chase Final (3.05) with in-form trainer Paul Nolan holding a great chance with Fitzhenry.

After going through a quiet spell, the Wexford handler has sent out two winners, three seconds, a third and two fourths in the past 14 days and his progressive novice can score in the €65,000 contest under Barry Geraghty.

Mullins and Elliott also hold leading claims in the Listed Irish Racing Writers Kingsfurze Novice Hurdle (3.0) with both double-handed and the most likely winner may be Nessun Dorma, with jockey Paul Townend expected to make it a hat-trick of wins over obstacles for the Closutton maestro.

The now customary 'Friday Night Lights' card dominates this evening at Dundalk where Curragh trainer Darren Bunyan can continue his fine form with Clebourne in the Windsor Bar & Restaurant Handicap (6.0).

The three-year-old looks well treated with only a 5lb hike for his course-and-distance win last month and he may have too much for Ger Lyons' top-weight It's All A Joke, while, elsewhere, all eyes will be on Chateau La Fleur in the Jack Murphy Jewellers Maiden (8.30).

Dermot Weld's charge is a daughter of Frankel and will be expected to score on debut under Pat Smullen having been purchased for 900,000 Guineas by owners Moyglare Stud as a yearling.

Meanwhile, Elliott and jockey Davy Russell continued their blistering form of late as Lieutenant Colonel (13/8) claimed his first victory in 18 months at Cork yesterday.

The pair took the top trainer and rider awards at the Cotswolds last week and the former dual Grade One-winning hurdler maintained their purple patch to land the UCC Horse Racing Society Hurdle at the expense of Mullins' Karalee (4/5 favourite).

Mullins got his own back in the UCC Goes Racing Maiden Hurdle when Antey (4/9 favourite) got the better of Last Minute Man by a head to break his duck over hurdles but Elliott still finished with a double on the day as Lisa O'Neill steered Black Tears (8/13) to justify favouritism in the concluding Mares Bumper.

Irish Independent

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