Wednesday 17 January 2018

Mullins aims star novice at Limerick

Keith Hamer

EXCITING chasing prospect Quel Esprit looks like he will be returning to Limerick for his festive target.

Trainer Willie Mullins was delighted with the six-year-old's victory at Limerick last month and is eyeing their big novice contest on Sunday, in preference to the Fort Leney Novice Chase at Leopardstown this day week.

"He did win his novice in Limerick and that was franked the other day when Torphichen won the beginners chase at Clonmel," Mullins said.

"Sometimes I like horses to go back to where they won. The old saying is horses for courses and there's a nice novice chase in Limerick on St Stephen's Day and that could be where he'll go.

"He was a little bit disappointing at the end of last season. I thought he was one of my better chances going to Cheltenham and he disappointed, but hopefully he'll make up for that over fences."

Another classy grey in the Mullins yard, Fiveforthree, faces an uphill battle to be ready for this season's Cheltenham Festival.

The Closutton trainer has yet to decide whether to keep the 2008 Cheltenham winner to the smaller obstacles for this season or send him chasing.

Fiveforthree has not run since landing the World Series Hurdle at Punchestown in April 2009, but is now back in full training. "He has done two or three pieces of fast work now and I don't know if he's going to go chasing or not yet," Mullins said.

"We had intended at the start of the season to go chasing. However, here we are at Christmas and you have to make the most of your novice year.

"If you want to go to Cheltenham, time is running out, but there are lots of chases to be won over there and maybe with that's what we want to do. Maybe we'll start off in a beginners chase; hopefully he'll stay sound and then we can try to get a few more and skip Cheltenham."

Noel Meade has been forced to rule out his top hurdler Go Native for the entire season. The Meath handler had initially decided to train him with the second half of the campaign in mind after he suffered an injury when sent off favourite for the Champion Hurdle.

However, the recovery has not gone totally to plan, meaning Meade has decided to write off this term.

Go Native was bidding for a £1m bonus at Cheltenham, having won both the Fighting Fifth and Christmas Hurdles.

"We weren't happy with him after he came back into work and decided not to continue," said Meade. "He'll hopefully be back next season when the plan will be the Champion Hurdle again."

Meanwhile, Leopardstown will host the re-arranged Future Champions INH Flat Race tomorrow week.

The Grade Two bumper was due to be held at Navan last Sunday but will now replace the Kilternan INH Flat Race at the Christmas meeting.

The Grade Three Lombardstown EBF Mares Novice Steeplechase -- originally due to be held at Cork on December 12 -- will now be run at Punchestown on Friday week.

The Porterstown Handicap Steeplechase, which was scheduled for Fairyhouse on December 15, will now be held at that track on New Year's Day.

Tomorrow's meeting at Gowran Park was yesterday cancelled due to a frozen track.

Irish Independent

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