Uradel can help Mullins in title race
No stone will be left unturned in Willie Mullins' bid to maintain his Irish trainer's championship, with the Closutton master firing every available dart at some valuable prizes on a cracking Fairyhouse card today.
While many of his stable stars are primed for next week's Punchestown Festival - which will ultimately tell the tale in his gripping battle with Gordon Elliott - events at the Meath track are a nice precursor to what's to come.
With approximately €550,000 separating the pair, Mullins will be hoping to take a significant chunk out of his rival's lead as he goes in search of title number 12 and he looks well placed to do so before switching all attention to the final festival of the season.
However, knowing Elliott's thirst for success, Tiger Roll's Aintree Grand National win on Saturday will be forgotten when he makes the short trip to his local course in search of more silverware to aid his bid for a maiden trainers' title.
After losing the third day of the Fairyhouse Easter Festival to the elements, this rescheduled meeting lights up the midweek, with Mullins saddling a staggering 10 of the 19-runner field in the featured €100,000 Rybo Handicap Hurdle (5.50).
This has been a minefield for punters, with only one favourite obliging in the last 10 renewals - five have won at double-figure odds - but Mullins is the man to follow, taking the spoils for the last two years with classy Flat horses.
While Uradel is not in the same league on the level as Thomas Hobson (2017) or Clondaw Warrior (2016), the seven-year-old does have some decent form from his time in France and has a live chance with Paul Townend up.
Clearly not the easiest to train given the long absences between many of his runs, he looked a really smart type when running away with a decent novice hurdle at Naas on his last run in February and should be bang there.
True Self is another interesting Closutton contender, with the five-year-old mare hovering at the bottom of the handicap under Rachel Blackmore while Elliott makes a four-pronged attack led by Duca De Thaix.
Winner of the Grade Three Irish Independent Hurdle at Limerick over Christmas, the Gigginstown runner disappointed in the County Hurdle at Cheltenham but with man-of-the-moment Davy Russell in the saddle, he has claims in a competitive affair.
Another intriguing challenger is Yaha Fizz, which is having its first run for Elliott since switching from Eamonn Delaney's yard after running a cracker when third over course and distance in a hot December handicap.
Mullins has no representative in the preceding Handicap Hurdle Series Final (5.15), with Elliott double-handed through Monkshood and Poli Roi but the €55,00 prize may instead go the way of Castafiore Park. There was a lot to like about how Paul Nolan's mare went about her business at Limerick and, off a light weight, she may defy her double-figure odds in the hands of 5lb conditional Dylan Robinson.
The Grade Two BoyleSports Juvenile Hurdle (4.40) is a Mullins (four) versus Elliott (three) affair and there's plenty of Cheltenham form on offer with Fred Winter victor Veneer Of Charm - which subsequently disappointed here earlier this month for Elliott - and Mullins' Triumph Hurdle fifth Saldier.
Msassa is open to improvement, with the French recruit picking up smartly in a matter of strides on debut at Wexford last month and Robbie Power's mount is one to keep on the right side of but preference is for Saldier, which was let down by poor jumping at the Festival.
The pace will not be that frenetic and while Townend's decision to partner Saglawy suggests he's the first choice, David Mullins' mount is an exciting prospect which impressed when winning his maiden hurdle at Gowran Park and can score.
Favourites have an outstanding record in the Grade Three John & Chich Fowler Memorial EBF Mares Chase (6.50), with the last five scoring and that's another plus for Asthuria.
Tipperary trainer/jockey Denis Hogan has been blazing a trail this season, with Youcantcallherthat one of his stable stars and the seven-year-old had Dinaria Des Obeaux behind at Limerick but must face Elliott's charge giving 4lbs away this time.
Asthuria is also on good terms with Hogan's charge - in receipt of 8lbs, despite being rated just 1lb inferior on official ratings - and comes here on the back of giving subsequent Cheltenham Grade One winner Benie Des Dieux a fright at Naas. A seriously smart sort with fine form in the book, Asthuria is taken to oblige for Townend.
Hogan has another great chance to strike a blow for smaller trainers with Moskovite in the Listed Mares Flat Race (7.50), which closes out the card in style, but this is likely to be a day dominated by the big guns once again.