Improving Felix heads Mullins' Limerick raid
PROGRESSIVE novice chaser Felix Yonger looks set to start odds-on to continue Willie Mullins' good record in the Greenmount Park Novice Chase at Limerick.
The champion trainer has won two of the last four runnings of the Patrickswell festive showpiece -- including the success of Sir Des Champs two seasons ago -- and Felix Yonger is well equipped to continue his winning ways.
Having already recorded three victories from as many starts over the larger obstacles, the exciting seven-year-old has already surpassed what he achieved over hurdles.
Paul Townend's mount has twice negotiated the stiff fences of Punchestown, completing his hat-trick at Navan, so these obstacles should not faze him.
The trip of two miles and an extended three furlongs should be right up his street and Mullins' main concern for the Grade Two prize is the possibility of heavy ground.
"He's coming here instead of going to Leopardstown and the two-and-a-half (miles) shouldn't be any trouble to him," said the Closutton handler. "The ground in Limerick sounds as though it will be quite heavy, which might not be ideal, but we're happy to let him take his chance."
Felix Yonger is the star name in a nine-runner field, with Mullins also saddling Balnaslow and The Paparrazi Kid.
Best of the rest on ratings is Gordon Elliott's Shrapnel, but he was a long way behind Felix Yonger in the Craddockstown Chase at Punchestown. Elliott said: "It looks a competitive race. Hopefully we'll pick up some prize-money. Felix Yonger is obviously the one to beat."
The main supporting contest on the seven-race card is the O'Kelly Bros. Demolition & Environmental Contracts Hurdle.
Aidan O'Brien will have a rare St Stephen's Day runner as he lets Carriganog take its chances in the six-runner field.
The JP McManus-owned four-year-old was far from disgraced when third behind the high-class Apache Stronghold at Navan last month, but he faces a difficult test in yet another Mullins French recruit Smashing.
Running in the Potts colours made famous by Sizing Europe, Smashing made a winning Irish debut at Fairyhouse last month and Mullins is expecting a bold showing.
"He's a horse who should like the conditions. It's a tough race, but we'll let him take his chance and see how he goes," said the champion trainer.
As for the rest of the card, there's competitive fare for racegoers on the seven-race spread, with Katie Walsh a notable booking for Stack The Deck in the closing bumper.
Meanwhile, there's a cracking hunters chase down for decision at Down Royal on the same day. Reigning Cheltenham Foxhunters champion Salsify will renew rivalry with his old foe Tammys Hill, while the inclusion of 2010 Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup winner Joncol and Enda Bolger's On The Fringe makes for an informative event.