Saturday 21 April 2018

Mullins plans to run star trio in Irish Champion Hurdle

Champion trainer Willie Mullins is bound for Leopardstown on Sunday. Photo: Paul Mohan / SPORTSFILE
Champion trainer Willie Mullins is bound for Leopardstown on Sunday. Photo: Paul Mohan / SPORTSFILE

Thomas Kelly

Willie Mullins has confirmed that his star-studded trio of Faugheen, Nichols Canyon and Arctic Fire are all on track to run in Sunday's BHP Insurances Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown.

The unbeaten record of last year's Champion Hurdle hero Faugheen went up in smoke when he suffered a shock defeat at the hands of Nichols Canyon in the Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown, but he showed his true colours when defending his Christmas Hurdle crown at Kempton.

Nichols Canyon also struck gold last month with a determined display in the Ryanair Hurdle at Leopardstown. But Arctic Fire - runner-up to legendary former stablemate Hurricane Fly in last year's Irish Champion before going on to chase home Faugheen at Cheltenham - is on a recovery mission after disappointing on his first start over three miles at Leopardstown over Christmas.

"They all appear good at the moment," said Mullins, who won the Grade One for the last five years with Hurricane Fly. "Hopefully they all stay that way and we'll see them all on Sunday."

The champion trainer also said that he is eager to learn more about Vroum Vroum Mag's potential Cheltenham Festival target if he allows her to line up in the Mares' Hurdle at Ascot on Saturday.

The seven-year-old is unbeaten in six starts over fences and was just as impressive when switched back to smaller obstacles at Clonmel last month. "I'm very keen to bring her over for the OLBG Mares' Hurdle at Ascot on Saturday," Mullins explained.

"She's entered in the World Hurdle and the OLBG Mares' Hurdle at the Festival and Saturday will help us decide which route to take."

Vroum Vroum Mag is one of 12 entries for the Grade Two contest, with Desert Queen, Aurore D'Estruval and The Govaness among the possibles.

The Closutton supremo has captured the Mares' Hurdle at Cheltenham for the past seven years, with the brilliant Quevega winning for a record six times in a row.

Glens Melody prevailed last March after her more illustrious stable companion Annie Power suffered a well-publicised fall at the final flight, with victory seemingly in the bag.

Annie Power has not been seen in competitive action this season due to a setback, but is on the road to recovery.

"She's galloping again and progressing nicely, but we have no firm plans as of yet," said the trainer.

Mullins, meanwhile, has reported that Killultagh Vic is none the worse the morning after his remarkable victory at Leopardstown.

A winner over hurdles at both Cheltenham and Punchestown last spring, the seven-year-old made a flying start to his career over fences at Fairyhouse and was a warm order stepped up to Grade Two level on Sunday.

Everything appeared to be going according to plan until he sprawled on landing after jumping the final fence, but having seemingly lost all chance, he somehow regained his momentum to get back up for a most unlikely victory under an inspired Ruby Walsh.

Mullins tweeted: "I'm happy to report that #KillultaghVic seems absolutely fine after his little speed wobble @LeopardstownRC."

The JLT Novices' Chase at Cheltenham is Killultagh Vic's most likely Festival target.

Irish Independent

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