Bellshill back in action for Willie Mullins as he shoots for Bobbyjo prize

Fri 23 Feb 2018

Bellshill returns from almost a year on the sidelines and bids to provide Willie Mullins with yet another winner in the At The Races Bobbyjo Chase at Fairyhouse on Saturday.

The perennial champion trainer has claimed the Grade Two prize a record seven times, first striking gold with subsequent Grand National hero Hedgehunter in 2005.

Despite having been off the track since finishing third behind Might Bite and Whisper in the RSA at last season's Cheltenham Festival, Bellshill is likely to be a warm order to give weight and a beating to five rivals in the hands of the trainer's nephew, David Mullins.

Patrick Mullins, assistant to his father, said: "Bellshill is in great form at home. He schooled well on Friday morning and it will be great to get him back on the track.

"He's not well-in at the weights with Mala Beach and Lord Scoundrel. He has an 8lb penalty, so it's not going to be easy for him.

"The main thing we want is a clear round and we can look forward to a spring campaign."

Bellshill is entered in the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham next month, while the Grand National at Aintree and the Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse in April are other options.

Mullins added: "The Grand National and the Irish National are both possibilities and he needs experience if he's going to go for either of those."

Mullins' title rival Gordon Elliott has won the Bobbyjo Chase twice before, with Roi Du Mee claiming top honours in 2013 and 2015.

This year the Cullentra handler fires a twin assault, with Lord Scoundrel and Mala Beach both bidding to bounce back to form after being pulled up on their most recent outings.

Mala Beach is dropping in class after contesting the Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown three weeks ago and receives weight from the rest of the field.

"Mala Beach is getting all the allowances, so we'll see," Elliott told At The Races.

Andy McNamara saddles his stable stalwart Val De Ferbet.

The nine-year-old is a course winner and reverts to fences after finishing a well-beaten third over hurdles at Clonmel last time out.

McNamara said: "He deserves to be there and the three-mile-one-furlong trip should suit.

"We gave him a bit of a mid-winter break as he was struggling on the very heavy ground. It shouldn't be as heavy this weekend, so we'll see what happens.

"He's a couple of pounds wrong with a couple of them and it does look a very competitive renewal. I'd say it's as good a Bobbyjo Chase as there's been for a few years.

"He won the Imperial Call Chase in Cork on Irish Grand National day last year and, all being well, he'll either go for that again or go for the Irish National itself."

The Noel Meade-trained A Genie In Abottle and Stephen Mahon's outsider Champagne Harmony complete the line-up.

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