Mullins eyes French raid while 'Goddess' should stamp her class at Navan
It's a strange weekend of racing on these shores with just one meeting but there is plenty of Irish interest elsewhere as Willie Mullins sends a battalion of runners to France in search of more silverware.
The champion trainer has put together a remarkable list of achievements in recent months across Ireland, England and France, and he sends a quintet in search of glory in tomorrow's Grade Two Prix la Barka Hurdle (4.32) at Auteuil.
Mullins has won the last three runnings - and five of the eight renewals - with Bapaume returning to the scene of his biggest career triumph to defend his crown, with champion jockey Paul Townend in the plate.
Bapaume is a thoroughly consistent sort and having chased home stablemate Benie Des Dieux in the Grade One Grande Course de Haies d'Auteuil at the track three weeks ago, the six-year-old holds obvious claims.
The Closutton maestro is also represented by Punchestown Festival winner Mr Adjudicator, Quick Grabim and the mares Stormy Ireland and Pravalaguna and will take some stopping.
Mullins also sends Total Recall and Isleofhopendreams across the English Channel for the Grade Two Prix des Drags Chase (3.25) and the latter, now a 12-year-old, will be out to go one better having finished second in the Irish Grand National on his last start.
They aren't the only Irish representatives, however, as Ross O'Sullivan also saddles the likeable mare Baie Des Iles while Mullins sends French Made into battle in the earlier Grade Three Prix Questarabad Hurdle (2.50).
Today's Navan card is the sole Irish meeting this weekend where Aidan O'Brien is expected to hold all the aces in the opening pair of maidens with Tango (2.15) and United Front (2.50) likely to improve from encouraging racecourse debuts to score.
The closing Irish Stallion Farms EBF Race (5.45) may only have three runners but it is an interesting contest with each of the trio holding realistic claims.
O'Brien's Goddess looks the standout, however, with her last start too bad to be true when tailing off in the Group Three Flash Stakes nearly a year ago.
Prior to that, Seamie Heffernan declared the Camelot filly to be "way better than average" having scorched to her maiden success at Leopardstown on her second start, and Donnacha O'Brien's mount can keep Dermot Weld's Tinandali at bay.
Gordon Elliott's Kuiper Belt is an intriguing contender in the www.navanracecourse.ie Handicap (4.0) and will be fit from hurdling but he may be foiled by Joseph O'Brien, who saddles Down Royal winner Shakespear'sgalley with the trip expected to suit.