Monday 22 January 2018

Focus turns to Patrick in Mullins family affair

Davy Condon

Davy Condon

Pushing the races back yesterday was the right thing to do. The ground was fine once the frost covers came off but the few extra minutes gave the ground every chance possible – even though when you've been here since Sunday waiting for it all to kick off, those extra few minutes felt like a lifetime.

There's an important couple of days coming up for the Irish contingent and in particular for Willie Mullins' yard.

In fact, follow some of Willie's better chances and I don't think you'll go too far wrong. He can get a day when he has a number of strong chances off to a great start with my nap of the day, Back In Focus.

Patrick Mullins is up and Back In Focus will have no problem getting the four-mile trip. I'd suggest that Nina and Tofino Bay for Dessie Hughes won't be too far off the pace in this one.

Patrick has already two winners under his belt here – both coming in the Champion Bumper –and he'll have a very good chance of winning that race for the third time on Union Dues.

He won a decent Grade Two Bumper in Navan last time out and looks like the type of horse that will enjoy the undulations here at Cheltenham.

Willie has another great chance in the Neptune Novices' Hurdle (2.05) with Pont Alexandre and Ruby Walsh.

This was the race won by Simonsig last year, and Willie has been full of praise for 'Pont'. By throwing his five-year-old into a Grade One race, he's shown the full depth of his respect for this horse. Expect Mouse Morris' Rule The World to follow them up the Hill.

The RSA Chase sees Ruby getting my vote once more, this time on Paul Nicholls' Unioniste.

A winner of four of his last five outings, there can be no doubting his form; he was game when seeing off Hadrian's Approach by a short head last time out in Newbury.

Davy Russell and Lord Windermere are also in with a good shout and could be worth an each-way shout.

In the big race of the day, the Champion Chase, I'm going to follow the crowd and plump for Nicky Henderson's brilliant seven-year-old Sprinter Sacre.

I know there are some doubts over the class of horse he has beaten so far. Sizing Europe will give him a great battle, but 'Sprinter' has been winning his races in such impressive form that I don't see an upset here.

Sizing is unbeaten this season and Sprinter's price is very short, but you have to be really respected to be at such a short price for a race of this calibre. He just looks a class above everything else.

We're back to Willie for the Coral Cup and Abbey Lane, Cash And Go will be close enough.

I have a ride in the penultimate race of the day, the Fred Winter juvenile Handicap Hurdle when I partner Flaxen Flare. He's a decent sort but would need a return to the form that saw him win in Leopardstown over Christmas to be considered in this company so I think we might all be following Bordoni and Denis O'Regan home.

Irish Independent

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