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Patrick Mullins is relishing the opportunity to partner Min for the first time in his bid for a record third victory in the John Durkan Memorial Punchestown Chase after the meeting passed a noon inspection because of fog.
The Willie Mullins-trained nine-year-old has landed the two-and-a-half-mile Grade One in each of the past two seasons, with Ruby Walsh doing the steering in 2018 and Paul Townend aboard 12 months ago.
With Walsh now retired and Townend instead heading to Cork to partner Min’s stable companion Chacun Pour Soi in the Hilly Way Chase, the most successful amateur jockey in Irish racing history will come in for the ride on last season’s Ryanair Chase winner.
🇮🇪 The latest scene at @punchestownrace where the track is currently unraceable due to fog@ABEDubai <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/LuckOnSunday?src=hash&refsrc=twsrc%5Etfw">#LuckOnSunday pic.twitter.com/wGyPASWR10— Racing TV (@RacingTV) December 6, 2020
He said: “I can’t wait to ride him – it’s a great ride to pick up.
“It looks a very tough race, but he has a fantastic record and hopefully we can improve it on Sunday.”
Min is one of four runners for the champion trainer, who is bidding to equal Jim Dreaper’s haul of seven John Durkan victories.
Mullins also saddles Melon, who was last seen going down by a nose to Samcro in the Marsh Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham in March when ridden by Mullins – the fourth time he has filled the runner-up spot at the Festival.
The Closutton quartet is completed by RSA Chase third Allaho and Tornado Flyer.
Mullins junior added: “Melon and Allaho are two of the top novices from last year, so it will be interesting to see how they get on in open company for the first time.
“All three of them are in great form and working well. It would be no surprise if any of the three won.”
Gordon Elliott relies on Battleoverdoyen after his win in a Grade Two contest at Down Royal last month (watch below). Elliott also declared Samcro but he has been ruled out because of the heavy ground.
“From the minute Battleoverdoyen crossed the line in Down Royal, it was always the plan to come to Punchestown for the John Durkan,” Elliott said.
“Battleoverdoyen won well in Down Royal and came out of his race well. We’ll see if he can back that up now. The trip should be good for him.”
The Henry de Bromhead-trained Chris’s Dream came close to claiming Grade One glory on the same Down Royal card – going down by a neck to Elliott’s The Storyteller in the Ladbrokes Champion Chase.
Jockey Robbie Power is hopeful he can go one better this weekend, saying: “Chris’s Dream ran a blinder at Down Royal and I wouldn’t swap him on Sunday.
“He won the Red Mills Chase at Gowran Park last season over two and a half miles and he travelled very strongly at Down Royal, so I don’t see any negative to him dropping back in trip.
“The horse that beat him at Down Royal had match fitness, which we didn’t have, but Chris’s Dream ticks all the boxes on Sunday and now he has had a run under his belt, which some of his opposition won’t have.”
A stellar field is completed by Joseph O’Brien’s Le Richebourg, who makes his first competitive appearance since winning for the fourth time in five starts over fences in the Irish Arkle at Leopardstown in February of last year.
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