WILLIE MULLINS will dominate this weekend’s Dublin Racing Festival, but not for the first time he might have a thorn well and truly stuck in his side by star novice Marine Nationale.
Ireland’s champion trainer has done all he can to topple Marine Nationale, but he’s failed badly so far despite 12 individual challengers as the unbeaten Barry Connell-owned and trained top notcher has banged in six successes on the bounce.
Mullins will certainly be smiling on a weekend where he will dominate the Dublin Racing Festival[/caption]
Victories have, of course, included the Grade 1 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham, and if the son of French Navy had stayed over the smaller obstacles he’d have been seen as at least some sort of threat to jumping sensation Constitution Hill.
In the Supreme, Mullins took on Marine Nationale with the highly regarded Facile Vega – who is back in opposition on Saturday – as well as Diverge, Il Etait Temps, also back for more this afternoon, and Dark Raven.
Other Mullins inmates to be stuffed by Marine Nationale include Feu du Bresil, Ho My Lord, Ashroe Diamond, Champ Kiely, Hercule du Seuil, Polo Lounge, Follow the Brave and Spread Boss Ted.
At one stage it appeared that Mullins’s high class Gaelic Warrior would be up against Marine Nationale in Saturday’s Grade 1 Goffs Irish Arkle Novice Chase.
But there was a change of plan, or Rich Ricci’s team ran scared. Who knows?
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Gaelic Warrior goes Sunday in the Ladbrokes Novice Chase instead.
Connell said: “We’re happy to take on whoever turns up. He’s come out of Christmas great and his work has been very good.
“He’s a course-and-distance winner and he’s not as ground dependent as we thought, which was a good thing that came out of his run at Christmas.
“The ground wasn’t heavy that day but it was genuine soft ground. It’s probably going to dry it out but ground won’t be an issue for us and we’re very happy with his preparation.
“Our horse is very straightforward and has a great temperament. If nobody wants to go on then he can make the running like he did the last day or he can drop in like he did in the Supreme.”
As far as betting is concerned Marine Nationale will be very short to win again, and he’s already 4-6 for the Arkle at Cheltenham.
There are many big names in action at Leopardstown, but the main attraction is surely Gold Cup hero Galopin des Champs who is long odds-on to deny Fastorslow in the Grade 1 Paddy Power Irish Gold Cup.
In some ways the betting might be hard to explain, as Martin Brassil’s charge has beaten Galopin des Champs in their last two clashes at Punchestown and at this track.
However, Galopin des Champs was brilliant at Cheltenham last March and equally so when smashing up Gerri Colombe in the Savills Chase.
The simple truth is most observers believe Galopin des Champs is the best chaser in the land.
Fastorslow will need to be the first part of his name rather than the latter to get a hat-trick over Paul Townend’s mount.
The Grade 1 at Sandown today is the Grade 1 Virgin Bet Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase, featuring Hermes Allen who was well and truly put in his place by French class act Il est Francais at Kempton at Christmas.
I’m happy to give Djelo another chance.
Djelo loves heavy ground and has been really getting his act together over fences this term for Venetia Williams and Charlie Deutsch.
As a hurdler he was a bit of a hooligan and never fulfilled his promise, but he’s been good at Aintree, Newbury and Ascot and you can forget his fall at Lingfield as he was knocked over.
Luckily he appears to be fine.
As for my Saturday NAP well I turn to an old timer, which is possibly appropriate on my birthday!
Many will love watching some old friends in the Virgin Bet Masters Handicap Chase and the three-mile trip will take some getting.
I have high eachway hopes for Certainly Red, who has been to this track before and run well here.
A mark of 135 is down from 142 when he was a decent seventh in the big handicap at this track back in April once known as the Whitbread.
The ten-year-old, trained by Lydia Richards, was a fair third here two runs ago and he’ll be hard to keep out the frame for Marc Goldstein. Wish him well. And me!
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