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Shaneshill sets out on path towards Cheltenham summit

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Trainer Willie Mullins

Trainer Willie Mullins

SPORTSFILE

Trainer Willie Mullins

Willie Mullins unleashes another of his big guns when the champion bumper runner-up Shaneshill tackles hurdles for a first time under Ruby Walsh at Fairyhouse today.

Having cantered up in a winners' bumper at this venue last year, Shaneshill was put away for Cheltenham as the champion trainer (right) sought to avoid the worst of the winter ground.

In the Cotswolds, he ran as though he just lacked an edge when a staying-on second to Silver Concorde, and he improved to turn the tables in the equivalent Grade One at Punchestown.

Today's soft to heavy conditions will hardly be ideal for Shaneshill, so there might be an opportunity for Wrath Of Titans or Jim Culloty's unexposed Crown Of Gold to make an impression.

Wrath Of Titans, one of three that race in Sandra Hughes' name for a first time following the sad death of her legendary father Dessie, has the benefit of its recent Punchestown second.

Crown Of Gold is less precocious, but he had Saturday's bumper winner Wildebeest behind here over hurdles 15 days ago, so he is no slouch.

That all said, as 10/1 ante-post market leader for the Neptune Novices' Hurdle at next year's Festival, Shaneshill would want to be winning this.

Walsh's only other booked ride is the Closutton team's Aklan in the opening conditions hurdle. Stablemate Digeanta, Robert Tyner's JP McManus-owned Clonmel winner Sir Abbot and Henry de Bromhead's May novices' chase victor You Must Know Me are among others of interest.

However, Aklan looked a smart prospect when hacking up on his hurdle bow at Navan in January, having been off for a year-and-a-half. A 110-rated Flat horse, he could prove a formidable prospect here, as might the stable's returning Outlander under Bryan Cooper in the maiden hurdle.

Tyner and Philip Enright are expected to have a big say with the improved chaser Knock Beauty as she makes her return off a favourable mark in the handicap hurdle, while Noel Meade's Aengus is napped in the bumper.

Mullins' first-timer Arkwrisht could be anything, but Aengus showed plenty when third on its Naas debut, so he is trusted to step up on that now.

At Wexford yesterday, the Mullins juggernaut plundered a short-priced treble, taking his haul in the last six days of domestic jump racing to 16.

With Cooper absent at Hughes' funeral, Walsh steered Gigginstown's Aminabad (1/1) and Measureofmydreams (2/9) to bloodless maiden hurdle wins, before Rich Ricci's French debutant Vroum Vroum Mag then showed plenty va va voom to canter up at 8/11 in the mares' beginners' chase.

Mullins' son Patrick was a fortuitous winner of the hunters' chase on the stable's former inmate Boxer Georg. Now trained by John 'Shark' Hanlon and owned by Cathy O'Farrell, Boxer Georg (5/2) will in future be ridden by the owner's daughter Katie, who sat this out after a heavy fall on Sunday.

Shane Ryder's Robbie Moran-ridden Halls Bridge (14/1 into 11/1) and Oliver McKiernan's Shane Crimin-ridden Follow The Sign (12/1 into 5/1) both justified strong market support in their respective handicaps.

Irish Independent