Saturday 21 April 2018

Saldier and Asthuria can aid Mullins' title battle

Mullins: Strong team at Fairyhouse. Photo: Sportsfile
Mullins: Strong team at Fairyhouse. Photo: Sportsfile

Michael Verney

There have been a lot of empty horse boxes at Willie Mullins's Closutton stables over the past few days as the champion trainer does everything in his power to secure his 12th title and today is no different.

In the wake of current leader Gordon Elliott landing yesterday's big prize, it's an all-out assault on all available prizemoney on the final day of the Fairyhouse Easter meeting and he looks to hold the key in the Grade Two BoyleSports Juvenile Hurdle (3.10) with a quartet of runners.

Msassa is open to any amount of improvement and the French recruit picked up smartly in a matter of strides on debut at Wexford last month with the runner-up Park Paddocks franking the form when hacking up at Cork in a maiden hurdle on Sunday.

He is well thought of in the Mullins yard and considered one of their best four-year-olds. Noel Fehily's mount is one to keep on the right side of but preference is for Saldier, which was far from disgraced when fifth in the Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham.

His jumping let him down on that occasion but the pace won't be anything like that today and while Paul Townend's decision to partner Saglawy suggests he's the first choice, David Mullins's mount is an exciting prospect which impressed when winning his maiden hurdle at Gowran Park.

Mitchouka has won four of his eight starts over hurdles - there were excuses for his Fred Winter run - and has the edge in terms of experience in this seven-runner field but Saldier may just have the class to prevail in a weak-looking Grade Two contest.

It's quality over quantity in the Grade Three John & Chich Fowler Memorial EBF Mares Chase (5.15) with a quintet of runners but all five hold a chance in a race that has rewarded favourite backers with eight hotpots prevailing in the last 10 runnings.

Tipperary trainer/jockey Denis Hogan has been blazing a trail this season with Youcantcallherthat one of his stable stars and the seven-year-old had Dinaria Des Obeaux behind at Limerick but must face Elliott's charge giving 4lbs away this time.

Another which is on good terms with Hogan's charge is Asthuria. Mullins's mare gets 8lbs off the top weight despite being rated just 1lb inferior on official ratings and comes here on the back of giving subsequent Cheltenham Grade One winner Benie Des Dieux a fright at Naas. A seriously smart sort with fine form in the book and an upward trajectory, Asthuria is taken to oblige for Townend.

The richest prize on offer is the €100,000 RYBO Handicap Hurdle (4.10) with Mullins (eight) and Elliott (four) accounting for more than half of the field but neither may make it to the winners' enclosure on this occasion.

In what is a minefield for punters with only one favourite obliging in the last 10 renewals - five winners have done so at double-figure odds - and Mullins taking the spoils for the last two years with classy Flat horses in Thomas Hobson and Clondaw Warrior.

Melbourne Cup third Max Dynamite fits the bill but heavy ground looks to be far from ideal for him again and he threw in an off-colour display when tailed off in the Coral Cup, while Charles Byrnes' Off You Go commands respect having taken a valuable handicap hurdle at the Dublin Racing Festival in February.

They may play second fiddle to Impact Factor, however, with Jessica Harrington's stable always coming to the boil at this time of the year and her progressive six-year-old may be unexposed having kept good company in second behind Getabird, Hardline and Paloma Blue while also edging the smart Eagle Lion in his four hurdle runs thus far.

The opening Mongey Communications Beginners Chase (2.40) contains just six runners. Seven-year-olds have taken the only three runnings which favours Le Martalin and Mon Limo and with Noel Meade's horses back in form, the former may take this.

Le Martalin may still be a maiden over fences after four runs but the Gigginstown runner has been bang there in three of them - unseated in the other - and can score for Meade at his home track under Sean Flanagan.

The €55,000 Novice Handicap Hurdle Series Final (3.40) will take a lot of getting over 3m but Edward Cawley was victorious here two days ago and Flemenstorm will love this challenge.

Irish Independent

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