Sunday 26 May 2019

Mullins hopes enigmatic Yorkhill can get back on track

Mullins: Has a strong hand in feature. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Mullins: Has a strong hand in feature. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Michael Verney

Michael Verney

There are few enigmas in racing quite like Yorkhill but Willie Mullins will be hoping that reacquainting the nine-year-old with Ruby Walsh can strike the right chord on his seasonal return at Clonmel today.

The two-time Cheltenham Festival winner - which landed the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle in 2016 and the JLT Novices' Chase a year later - had been a mooted as a possible Gold Cup contender before last season's disastrous campaign.

Six abject displays - mixed between chasing and hurdling - rendered last season a write-off and left Mullins at his wits' end to explain the radical change in fortunes for the hugely-talented son of Presenting.

Better will be expected at the Tipperary track following a 290-day absence but the Suir Valley Chase (4.20) is a far cry from some of his finest hours ahead of a potential tilt at the spring festivals - Aintree is his most likely destination - if showing his old spark today.

He has the assistance of Walsh, who didn't partner him last season but has been in the plate for six of his nine career wins, and will be expected to get a decent tune out of him, although going right-handed over fences is a major question mark.

The Closutton maestro, who holds an advantage of just under €440,000 over nearest rival Gordon Elliott in the race to land his 13th Irish trainers' championship, has a powerful hand with the hooded Acapella Bourgeois (Paul Townend) and Polidam (Danny Mullins) also engaged in an intriguing six-runner contest over two and a half miles.

Mullins has a strong connection with two of the other contenders having trained Arctic Fire - now in the care of Denis Cullen - to finish second in the 2015 Champion Hurdle as well as securing Cheltenham Festival success two years ago, while nephew Emmet Mullins saddles St Stephens Green with Brian Hayes aboard.

Willie Mullins will also have a keen eye on the opening maiden hurdle (2.20) where Annamix, one-time Supreme Novices' Hurdle favourite, will be expected to go one better than his second at Limerick over Christmas when tackling 17 rivals.

Meanwhile, multiple Grade One winners Don Poli and Outlander will be up for sale as part of this year's Aintree sales on April 4 despite running in the Grand National just two days later.

Owners Gigginstown House Stud will part ways with the Elliott-trained pair but both are guaranteed a run in the €1.2million Aintree showpiece with Outlander carrying 11-0 and 2016 Gold Cup third Don Poli on 10-13.

Purchasers already registered with the BHA can change the ownership and colours before the gruelling marathon two days later, so that will make them an attractive proposition for bidders. Gigginstown's Tiger Roll, trained by Elliott, is hot favourite (7/2) to become the first horse since the mighty Red Rum (1973-'74) to retain his Liverpool crown.

Irish Independent

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