'Devie' books her ticket to Cheltenham
Meri Devie booked her Cheltenham ticket when taking the Listed Quevega Mares Hurdle at Punchestown yesterday to lead an 18/1 treble for Willie Mullins.
Mullins' five-year-old (5/4 favourite) has been inconsistent this term but a 21lbs swing in the weights from their meeting at the Dublin Racing Festival allowed her to turn the tables on Jessica Harrington's Alletrix.
When David Mullins asked the question in the home straight, Meri Devie provided all the answers with the Cotswolds and a tilt at the Mares' Hurdle now her next engagement.
The champion trainer said: "I thought she was well-in there and she jumped well. We're very happy with that and can look forward to bringing her over (to Cheltenham) for the Mares' Hurdle. Two-and-a-half miles is no problem to her, and as the season goes on she can go up in trip."
Mullins had earlier struck with another mare when Cut The Mustard (3/1), again under the trainer's nephew David, prevailed in a maiden hurdle as did Redhotfillypeppers (11/10 favourite), owned and ridden by British millionaire David Dunsdon.
Meanwhile, a repeat bid is highly unlikely but reigning champion Our Duke heads the weights (11st 10lbs) and the 97 entries for the 2018 BoyleSports Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse on April 2.
Jessica Harrington's brilliant eight-year-old is unlikely to run in the Easter Monday showpiece given his intended engagement in the Cheltenham Gold Cup but with €500,000 up for grabs, the famous handicap has the potential to play a huge role in the destination of the trainers' championship.
Neither Gordon Elliott nor Willie Mullins have yet won an Irish Grand National but they hold a staggering 48 entries with Elliott responsible for 30 and Mullins a further 18 including progressive duo Bachasson (11st 3lbs) and Total Recall (11st).
Elliott's leading fancies include Thyestes Chase winner Monbeg Notorious (10st 10lbs) and recent BoyleSports Grand National Trial winner Folsom Blue (10st) while Squouateur (9st 7lbs) currently vies for favouritism with Pat Kelly's Mall Dini (10st 1lb) at 10/1.
Elsewhere, Elliott and Gigginstown House Stud are responsible for half of the six-runner field in today's Grade Three Novice Hurdle (3.0) at Thurles, the feature of a seven-race card at the Tipperary track.
Blow By Blow drops down in class after struggling in the Naas Grade One while Gun Digger goes in the opposite direction following a decisive Down Royal win and Roaring Bull completes his trio of challengers in a hot race.