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Willie Mullins on Leopardstown fact-finding mission with Yorkhill

Fri 2 Feb 2018

Willie Mullins expects to learn plenty about Yorkhill's ambitions for the rest of the season when he takes on stablemate Min in the Coral Dublin Chase at Leopardstown on Saturday.

Mullins has never made any secret of the regard in which he holds Yorkhill and he has largely lived up to expectations, winning nine of his 12 starts under Rules, including successive victories at the Cheltenham Festival.

It is a measure of his talent and reputation that he was considered a viable contender for races ranging from the Champion Hurdle to the Cheltenham Gold Cup at the start of the season, although the latter was effectively ruled out after a disappointing first appearance over three miles in the Leopardstown Christmas Chase.

Mullins said: "I never thought he was a Gold Cup horse and from day one I thought he was probably a Champion Hurdle horse.

"If he's very hard to ride in a two-mile hurdle race, how are you going to ride him over three and a quarter miles (over fences) around Cheltenham?

"We will know a lot more after this. If we think he is near Champion Hurdle class and the way he jumps fences then it's possible that we could have a potential Champion Chase horse."

Yorkhill is a hot favourite to bounce back to winning ways in this two-mile Grade Two, but faces a serious threat from within his own yard.

Min suffered just one defeat in his first six starts for Mullins and that was when splitting Altior and Buveur D'Air in the 2016 Supreme Novices' Hurdle.

The seven-year-old lost a Grade One over this course and distance in the Leopardstown stewards' room over the festive period and owner Rich Ricci is hoping he can set the record straight.

He said: "I don't think that was his true running and I hope it wasn't. He's fine.

"He has only run four times over fences and hopefully he will learn more on the day."

The horse who profited from Min's demotion in late December was the Nicky Richards-trained Simply Ned, who is in opposition again.

Richards said: "I've no doubt Willie will be waiting for me this time!

"We've had great fun with our horse. He's run some fine races and hopefully he'll run another fine one on Saturday."

Mullins also saddles Ballycasey, while the field is completed by Henry de Bromhead's trio of Queen Mother Champion Chase hero Special Tiara, Alisier D'Irlande and Ordinary World.

Special Tiara suffered the first fall of his career in the Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton on his latest appearance and has not run in Ireland in almost two years.

De Bromhead said: "Any time we run him in Ireland, he seems to run terrible. Obviously ground is a big thing.

"The better the ground is, the better his chance, but he probably needs to have a run either way, having fallen the last day."

Mullins has two chances to land the Nathaniel Lacy & Partners Solicitors Novice Hurdle, which gets the inaugural Dublin Racing Festival under way.

The champion trainer sends into battle Limerick Grade Two winner Fabulous Saga and Carter McKay.

Patrick Mullins, assistant to his father, said: "Fabulous Saga seems to have improved hugely since we put the tongue-tie on him.

"He's coming back in trip and running on slightly better ground, but he's a hardened novice compared to a lot of these and has a lot of experience. Anything that tries to go by him will know they've had a race.

"Carter McKay is stepping up in trip but he's a horse that settles well, which is a big advantage in these longer distance races.

"There might not be as much between the two of them as the form suggests and I'd be expecting him to run a very big race, too."

Trainer Gordon Elliott and owners Gigginstown House Stud rely upon Dortmund Park, who steps up to Grade One level following victories in lesser company at Fairyhouse and Thurles.

Mullins saddles course-and-distance winners Minella Encore and Blackbow in the Grade Two Goffs Future Stars INH Flat Race.

Elliott runs three-time bumper winner Rapid Escape and Empire Burleque, and said of the former: "He's going to be some horse for the future.

"He worked the other day and worked very well. He's an easy enough horse to keep fit and this has been the plan. I'd imagine this will be his last run (of the season)."

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