By Andy Stephens
The serial Irish champion trainer enjoyed a treble at Naas on Sunday and afterwards said that Faugheen and Melon are still on target for the BHP Insurance Irish Champion Hurdle on Saturday - one of seven Grade One contests at the two-day meeting - after a “tough bit of work” 24 hours earlier, while Yorkhill and Min are set to meet for the first time in the Coral Dublin Chase.
Dual Cheltenham Festival winner Yorkhill is perhaps the most intriguing among the quartet as he will be dropping back to two miles after trailing home last in the Christmas Chase over three miles at Leopardstown last month.
Mullins also revealed the eight-year-old had chipped a bone in his foreleg that day, which has since been removed.
“Yorkhill is a very good horse with a huge engine (but) he’s had his problems,” the trainer said. “He chipped a bone in his foreleg the last day. He was out for about ten days, which he’d be getting (in any case) after the race.
“I think last year we had to to take a splint bone out of him. He seems to rapp himself but he’s recovers very quickly and he went and won at Cheltenham after it. We’ll go back to two miles and see how he handles that.”
With the injured Ruby Walsh still on the sidelines, Paul Townend will get the choice of mounts but no decisions has been made as to which of the pair he will ride.
The bookmakers offer little help, with Yorkhill a general 5-4 and Min a general 6-4. The latter was first past the post in the Grade One Paddy's Rewards Club Chase at Leopardstown last time but was demoted for hampering Simply Ned, the runner-up, who is likely to reoppose.
“Tactics will be interesting for whatever jockeys ride whatever horses,” Mullins said on At The Races. “We discuss it beforehand but I don’t like tying them down because then you don’t know what was right or what was wrong. They make the decision on the day and hopefully they make more right than wrong.”
Faugheen and Melon each had a strong piece of work on Saturday and dominate the betting for the Irish Champion Hurdle. Faugheen is the general Evens favourite, with Melon, four years his junior, available at 7-2.
“I was happy with Faugheen and Melon yesterday - hopefully they will both turn up,” Mullins said.The younger legs of Melon will take on Faugheen (PA)
The trainer is also set to be double-handed in the Frank Ward Solicitors Arkle Novice Chase via Footpad, the 1-2 favourite who is unbeaten over fences, and Demi Sang, quoted at 16-1.
“Footpad’s in good form and Demi Sang is in good order,” he said. “You’d rather keep them apart until March but this is where they have to go. It’s our big novice race and so we’ll take our chance there.”
Getabird and Next Destination seem likely to miss the meeting, while Laurina, promoted to favourite for the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival after an impressive success at Fairyhouse on Saturday may not run again until March.
“Yesterday was a huge step up in class and she did it nicely again,” Mullins said. “She looks like she could be very good. I’d rather not run her if I could (before Cheltenham) but we’ll see what happens.”
Shattered Love is set to go straight for the RSA Insurance Chase to Cheltenham and sidestep Leopardstown next weekend.
Trainer Gordon Elliott believes the seven-year-old mare does not need to have another start in the Flogas Novice Chase as she has had five races already this season.
Shattered Love was last in action at Leopardstown over Christmas when she landed the Grade One Neville Hotels Novice Chase. "She'll go straight to Cheltenham," Elliott said.
"She's been busy enough. She's had five runs this year already so I'm going to go straight to the RSA with her."
Elliott still intends to be well represented in the two-mile-five-furlong Grade One next Sunday. "I think I'll probably run three in the Flogas – Sutton Place, Dounikos and The Storyteller, all being well," he said.
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