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The first of eight Grade 1 races this weekend will provide many clues for both the Ballymore and Albert Bartlett at the Cheltenham Festival next month. Paul Townend has decided to ride GAILLARD DU MESNIL following his impressive victory at this venue over Christmas, with a hood applied by Willie Mullins for the first-time.
Mr Incredible and Magic Daze were subsequent winners for Henry de Bromhead, and victory in this 2m 6f contest would provide the Donnelly family with another firm player at Prestbury Park. Stattler is a serious horse in his own right and was going away from Glens Of Antrim after the last hurdle over Christmas to suggest the extra trip will be a positive.
The inclusion of both runway Cork winner Gentlemansgame for Mouse Morris and Cape Gentleman for Emmet Mullins makes this an intriguing affair. Holymacapony got the better of Gaillard Du Mesnil at Punchestown in November and returns having been pulled-up in a Grade 2 hurdle won by Ashdale Bob just before Christmas.
CHACUN POUR SOI and Min have dominated the Dublin Chase in recent seasons and will do so again in our second Grade 1 on Saturday. Shirley Bassey featured on the Propellerheads song History Repeating in 1997 and like the chorus goes, we’ll be seeing a little bit of history repeating, with the Willie Mullins stars finishing first and second again this year. Chacun Pour Soi is rated the second highest chaser in Ireland and can win this before contesting the Queen Mother Champion Chase.
Having missed the 2020 Cheltenham Festival, the now nine-year-old returned with victory at Cork in December seeing off lesser opposition in the Hilly Way Chase. He was slicker and showed more spark when beating Notebook and Put The Kettle On in the Paddy’s Rewards Chase at Christmas, and should be spot on here. Min has a been some servant over the years and drops in trip having beaten Tornado Flyer in the foggy John Durkan at Punchestown.
Chacun Pour Soi (174) is now rated 5lbs superior to Min (169) compared to 2lbs lower 12 months ago racing off level-weights. Patrick Mullins retains the ride on Min following success at Punchestown, but Chacun Pour Soi is progressing nicely towards Cheltenham and should see off his stablemate by a couple of lengths. The ever-reliable Notebook should chase them home in third place for Henry de Bromhead and Rachael Blackmore.
Willie Mullins has an incredibly strong hand in the novice chasing department this season and it would be some shock if the Closutton team don’t win the 2021 Irish Arkle. ENERGUMENE has been going about his business nicely with back-to-back victories at Gowran Park and Naas to remain unbeaten over fences from two-starts.
The Tony Bloom-owned runner has jumped well and attacked his fences under Paul Townend in both victories when making his own running. Wille Mullins was delighted with the manner of his success at Naas, on what he described as “very testing ground to do most of his own work.”
However, tactics will be different here with Felix Desjy likely to jump into the lead and make it a fast gallop from the start. The array of talent in Closutton means Unexcepted, who was equally impressive with his jumping at Tipperary takes his chance. Meanwhile, Franco De Port is hoping to land back-to-back Grade 1 wins at Leopardstown.
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HONEYSUCKLE can secure two Irish Champion Hurdles in-a-row and remain unbeaten for Henry de Bromhead and Rachael Blackmore in the feature race on Saturday. The Ken Alexander-owned mare is hoping to make it 10-from-10 under rules and comes here having taken the same route to success last season. She’s won her last three races, including this contest by a half-length, which shows her class and determination not to be turned over in a battle.
Sharjah was beaten close to 11 lengths behind Honeysuckle last year, with the Leopardstown specialist hoping to follow-up on his Matheson Hurdle success from over Christmas. He saw off Petit Mouchoir, Saint Roi, Abacadabras and Saldier on that occasion and will once again be waited with by regular rider Patrick Mullins. It’s going to be a great race, especially from the home turn, and despite slightly drier ground, Honeysuckle’s stamina should see off any late burst of Sharjah to win.
Willie Mullins has decided to go with three runners in the closing 2m Future Stars Grade 2 bumper having won two of the last three renewals. Patrick Mullins had plenty of options here but has decided to stick with KILCRUIT following his armchair winning ride and impressive victory at Navan in early December.
The son of Stowaway runs in the colours of last year’s winner Appreciate It for the Masterson family and was bred by Maureen Mullins. It’s obvious the horse means a lot to the Mullins family with the form of his Navan victory enhanced with Balllycairn winning here over Christmas.
The form of that win was also boosted recently with Limestone Rock winning a maiden hurdle at Naas for Mouse Morris. Ramillies won in similar eye-catching fashion here at Christmas, with Chemical Energy unbeaten after back-to-back wins for Gordon Elliott.
Leopardstown tips summary:
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