Wednesday 23 January 2019

Mullins eyeing a slice of French history

Trainer Willie Mullins. Photo: Sportsfile
Trainer Willie Mullins. Photo: Sportsfile
Michael Verney

Michael Verney

After his Punchestown Festival heroics last month, you couldn't put anything past Willie Mullins and the Closutton maestro hasn't reached racing's pinnacle by resting on his laurels.

While most National Hunt trainers are enjoying some down time, Mullins (right) is aiming to tick off another part of his bucket list when tackling tomorrow's Grand Steeple-Chase de Paris (3.15) in Auteuil.

Djakadam bids to finally shed the tag of bridesmaid - the nine-year-old is a dual Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up and four-times second in the Punchestown equivalent - making the trip to France having just been touched off by stable-mate Bellshill.

His consistency is never in question but with just one win in his last 13 runs, David Mullins's mount may be undone again by the home team.

Leading trainers Francois Nicolle and Guillaume Macaire saddle eight of the 14 runners in the 3m6f stamina test while Mullins also makes a four-pronged attack on tomorrow's Grande Course de Haies/French Champion Hurdle (3.55).

He has won the race, which has been moved from its usual June date, four times - his father Paddy also won it in 1984 with the great Dawn Run - and Killultagh Vic looks to be his leading contender.

Never one to show much respect for his hurdles - as was the case on his seasonal bow over the smaller obstacles on New Year's Eve at Punchestown - the nine-year-old has frustrated followers over fences falling in the Irish Gold Cup and pulling up in the Cheltenham blue riband.

His class is undoubted but it's hard to maintain faith and the same can be said for the enigmatic Yorkhill, which is looking to restore his battered reputation after a frustrating season, while they are joined by Coquin Mans and Bapaume.

Last year's winner L'AMI SERGE is the one to beat after finally delivering on his potential to thwart the efforts of Jessica Harrington's Supasundae en route to the Grade One Aintree Hurdle.

The all-conquering Carlow handler also saddles a trio of runners in today's Prix Alain du Breil Juvenile Hurdle (3.15) with Triumph Hurdle second Mr Adjudicator, Msassa and Saglawy engaged.

Having taken home the spoils twice in the last five years via Diakali (2013) and Footpad (2016), MR ADJUDICATOR is fancied to build on his Punchestown second behind stable companion Saldier with confidence high in Paul Townend's mount as he brings the best English and Irish form to the table.

Closer to home, today's seven-race Flat card at Navan is headlined by the Listed Yeats Stakes (4.10) where champion trainer Aidan O'Brien runs a trio led by the smart SOUTHERN FRANCE.

Despite not racing at two, the son of Galileo impressed at Leopardstown on just his second career run and could develop into a top-class stayer while taking this prize in his stride along the way.

The Flat action is top-class at Naas tomorrow with three Listed contests and the Group Three Lacken Stakes (4.15) looks like a Ballydoyle bonanza with SIOUX NATION and Fleet Review holding leading claims.

Preference is for Sioux Nation with Ryan Moore up. After shaking off the cobwebs at Navan last month, the Group One-winning two-year-old can show similar improvement to 12 months ago and reverse recent form with his stable-mate.

Harrington has been mixing winners in both codes over the past 14 days and BROTHER BEAR looks capable of building on his Tetrarch Stakes third.

Dermot Weld's smart colt Imaging was just a length ahead on that occasion and there may be a lot more to come from Colm O'Donoghue's mount in the Owenstown Stud Stakes (2.40).

It may also pay to side with the Moone handler in the Rochestown Stakes (3.15) where Curragh scorer DANDYS OCEAN can upset the odds and get the better of O'Brien hotpot Sergei Prokofiev.

Irish Independent

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