Wednesday 22 November 2017

Limini tests Cheltenham credentials

Willie Mullins is likely to have plenty to smile about again today. Photo: Ramsey Cardy / Sportsfile
Willie Mullins is likely to have plenty to smile about again today. Photo: Ramsey Cardy / Sportsfile
Richard Forristal

Richard Forristal

Limini gets the opportunity to validate her position as the clear market leader for the inaugural mares' novices' hurdle at Cheltenham in March when she steps into Grade Three company at Fairyhouse this afternoon.

Seven horses have been declared for the €35,000 two-and-a-quarter-mile contest, and it might be unwise to underestimate the Gordon Elliott-trained Whistle Dixie.

A half-sister to Kicking King, she won tidily over further at Navan in December, having also won two bumpers and a point-to-point. She clearly has the potential to keep improving, but this trip might ultimately be on the sharp side for Bryan Cooper's mount.

With Ruby Walsh and Paul Townend in England, Danny Mullins falls in for the plum ride on Limini, which hasn't been seen since running out a snug winner of a decent maiden hurdle at Punchestown in May.

On her debut for Mullins that day, Limini beat Sandymount Duke, Ballyoisin, Archive, Ordinary World and Shadagann, all of which have since won at least once. It was a tip-top maiden, and the half-length margin of victory in no way reflects the superiority of the performance.

Although she hasn't had a recent run and that the ground will be much deeper than she encountered in May, Limini is hard to oppose.

Mullins' only other runner on the card is Good Thyne Tara in the bumper. She denied the subsequent dual winner Ten Times Better when successful at Limerick in May.

However, preferred as nap material is Avellino. Trained by Dermot McLoughlin, Avellino found only the classy Lucky Pass too good on her track bow at Fairyhouse in November. All of 12 lengths back in third on that occasion was Any Drama, which bolted up at Thurles on Wednesday to further enhance the form.

Avellino had already done her part, dotting up by 13 lengths at Down Royal on St Stephen's Day. She is clearly an above average prospect, so she should collect again now under Noel McParlan.

In the rated chase, Any Drama's handler Pat Fahy brings Morning Assembly to compete for the first time since the 2014 Punchestown festival. The nine-year-old remains a fair prospect, but a chance is taken on Sumos Novios causing a minor upset. While Elliott's Lord Scoundrel is another obvious contender, Sumos Novios remains quite unexposed.

Liam Burke's charge was really impressive in beating Empire Of Dirt over this sort of mid-range trip at Punchestown in December, and that form has held up really well.

Last time, Sumos Novios was tiring when brought down in the Paddy Power Chase, having raced on the pace. This is contest should suit him better, so he can have a big say under the trainer's son, Jonathan.

Irish Independent

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