Mullins' fine summer work has Upazo ready to deliver goods
RACEGOERS at Kempton will get their money's worth this afternoon as the Surrey venue stages an eight-race card including the re-scheduled Grade One Tolworth Hurdle (1.35), which was lost to the elements at Sandown last week.
Bar Cheltenham and Aintree, it's rare to see Willie Mullins-trained horses compete in the UK but he has a number of entries at Kempton and Warwick today.
It's something we may see more of in the future as it gets increasingly difficult to keep his gifted horses apart in Ireland.
Mullins' six-year-old Upazo will face six rivals in the Tolworth and I'm surprised to see him chalked up as high as 11/4 in places considering David Pipe has said that the tight nature of Kempton may not suit 9/4 favourite The Liquidator as well as Sandown would have done.
It would be fair to say that Mullins' French import was a bit of a let-down last term following a promising start and he finished off the season tamely when fifth of 12 runners in a maiden hurdle which lacked any real depth at Leopardstown in March.
I had a big question mark beside his name, but a marked improvement on his return when winning a maiden hurdle by six and a half lengths at Fairyhouse following a nine-month break forced me to revaluate my opinion.
At the same venue in December, he went off at even-money for the Irish Racing Yearbook Rated Hurdle and favourite-backers were rubbing their hands together with glee as he approached the last hurdle while still on the bridle.
Whatever the Closutton-based handler did with him over the summer break seems to have worked and the gelding is definitely heading in the right direction.
Even though The Liquidator might prefer a more galloping track, a big performance today certainly can't be ruled out.
He is a Grade One bumper winner, after all, and later went on to win a Grade Two Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham, although the gelding was barely tested in the Prestbury Park race, with all three rivals running well below form.
At Warwick, Mullins' Glens Melody heads the market at 13/8 for the Listed Levy Board Warwick Mares' Hurdle (12.10). She's quite useful and won a Grade One hurdle confined to her own sex at Punchestown back in April, but I've a feeling she may struggle to contain the threat posed by Tim Vaughan's Hidden Identity, which is out for a hat-trick of wins following a great start to the season.
She loved the heavy ground in a handicap at Huntingdon last time in which she claimed the scalp of Zuider Zee, and she previously battled hard to beat Open Day by a neck in a similar race at Chepstow.
She has got a great attitude and is as tough as nails so today's testing conditions won't pose any difficulties for the eight-year-old. A reliable sort, she has already clocked up six wins from a dozen races and looks a nice price at 5/2.
The Nigel Twiston-Davies trained Same Difference (14/1) looked a little out of sorts as he blundered his way around Newbury last time in the Hennessy Gold Cup Chase to finish 10th, but the ground did him no favours -- he's seen to best effect with a bit of cut underfoot.
Still, there's no doubt that the eight-year-old has talent and he battled well to earn a big win in the Kim Muir Challenge Cup at the Cheltenham Festival. He's down a couple of pounds for his showing at Newbury and with testing ground expected in the Betfred Classic Chase (3.35 Warwick) he has place claims at the least.
12.10 Warwick: Hidden Identity
12.20 Lingfield: Three D Alexander
1.35 Kempton: Upazo
2.40 Kempton: Home Run
3.35 Warwick: Same Difference (e/w)
Betting: Do The Double
MAIDEN race favourites on the polytrack at Lingfield have a 44pc strike-rate and have actually broken even if blindly backed over the last 10 years. Three D Alexander, the likely jolly for the 32Red.com Maiden Stakes (12.20), ran reasonably well when fifth in a Listed race at the Curragh for David Wachman back in August and looks well capable of winning for new trainer David Evans priced around evens.
EVERTON welcome Norwich to Goodison Park this afternoon and Roberto Martinez's men are worthy favourites at 4/11 considering they've lost just two games from 20 this season.
Struggling Norwich have lost half of their Premier League matches and it's hard to envisage any other result here other than a comprehensive win for the home side.
Back the Toffees to land the half-time/full-time result at 21/20 and maintain their hopes of a top-four finish.