Mullins hoping Getabird can swoop to conquer
In his ongoing bid to make inroads on Gordon Elliott's substantial lead in the race to be champion jumps trainer, Willie Mullins will turn to the promising Getabird to lead the yard's three-pronged assault on the Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle at Punchestown on Saturday.
Mullins has claimed the Grade Two prize six times in the last nine years, with subsequent Cheltenham Festival heroes Mikael D'Haguenet (2009), Vautour (2014) and Douvan (2015) among those on the roll of honour.
Dual bumper winner Getabird missed the second half of last season through injury, but made an impressive start to his hurdling career at Punchestown last month and looks set to return to Co Kildare venue this weekend.
Mullins has also entered Gowran winner Carter Mckay, which did not take up an engagement in the Lawlor's of Naas Novice Hurdle on Sunday, and Makitorix.
He said: "I think Getabird goes for that (Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle). Carter Mckay just had a little setback, and that's why he didn't run on Sunday, but he'll probably go for that if he's all right."
The Mullins trio are among 11 entries for the two-mile contest, with title rival Elliott responsible for Hardline, Leopardstown 'run-out rogue' Mengli Khan, Roaring Bull and Stooshie.
Joseph O'Brien's Hardback, Henry de Bromhead's High School Days, Riders Onthe Storm from Tom Taaffe's yard and the Tom Mullins-trained Top Othe Ra complete the potential field.
On the same card, Grade Three honours are up for grabs in the Total Event Rental (Kildare) Novice Chase.
Mullins has three contenders in Arbre De Vie, Invitation Only and Koshari, while seven entries for Elliott include Dounikos, Tombstone and Grade One-winning mare Shattered Love. Pat Fahy's impressive Fairyhouse scorer Castlegrace Paddy and Pat Kelly's Cheltenham winner Mall Dini are also in the mix.
Fans of Faugheen, meanwhile, received good news yesterday with the champion trainer indicating the Rich Ricci-owned chestnut has the Irish Champion Hurdle back on his agenda.
The ten-year-old has been the subject of much speculation since pulling up at Leopardstown on the Friday after Christmas, but he did an exercise gallop on Monday and his handler issued a positive bulletin in the aftermath.
"I was very taken with the canter and our vet checked him over immediately afterwards and said he was fine," Mullins explained. "During the week it looks like I'll be able to put him back into full work."
The outlook for stablemate Limini, which runs in the same pink and green silks, is not as good with the talented mare ruled out of Cheltenham in March by Mullins, who's still holding out hope that the seven-year-old will be back in time for Punchestown in late April.
Across the water, Malcolm Jefferson's highly-regarded Cloudy Dream is likely to be back in action next month as connections aim to find him a suitable opportunity to return to winning ways.
The Grade Two-winning grey was runner-up to Altior in the Arkle Trophy at the Cheltenham Festival last season and has finished second on each of his three starts this term.
The eight-year-old most recently chased home Definitly Red at Aintree in early December on what was his first appearance over three miles.
Ruth Jefferson, the North Yorkshire handler's daughter and assistant, said: "He's just had a little break to freshen up but he'll be ready to run again in February.
"There are a few options we are looking at, without wanting to pin anything down.
"I'm sure he'll get three miles on good ground. It was very testing at Aintree that day he ran - as testing as it's been there for a while."