It may surprise some Chinese people to learn that Willie Mullins was born in 1956: the Year of the Fire Monkey. Apparently, those born in the Year of the Rooster—you are probably a rooster if you are going to be 24, 36 or another age that’s a multiple of 12 this year—are set to suffer plenty of bad luck this year. Sorry about that.
Clearly, Mullins must have walked under a few ladders, opened his umbrella indoors or received a clock as a gift (it’s a bad luck symbol in Chinese culture, relating to funerals) in the last few weeks given Annie Power, Faugheen and Min have all been ruled out of next month’s Cheltenham Festival.
Douvan—born in 2010, the Year of the Tiger—showed there’s plenty for Mullins still to play for at Cheltenham in March, though, when taking his unbeaten run to 14 at Punchestown last Sunday and the trainer is due to saddle six of the best on a cracking card at Leopardstown this Sunday; that’s six of the 10 runners in the Deloitte Novices’ Hurdle, a race Mullins has won for the last four years with Champagne Fever, Vautour, Nichols Canyon and Blue Et Rouge.
Blue Et Rouge contests the 2m 5f Flogas Novices’ Chase this time around, which, like the Deloitte, comes after the Spring Juvenile Hurdle (2.30pm) which is the first of four successive Grade 1 contest on the card. Unaccompanied and Petite Parisienne have done their bit for Girl Power in recent years and Mullins’ Meri Devie has a good chance of joining them as winners.
A winner on the Flat in France, she beat Housesofparliament by five lengths over C&D in December and it’s hard to see how the runner-up is going to reverse the form. While it’s unlikely to be easy, MERI DEVIE is taken to beat her stablemate Bapaume and another filly in Dinaria des Obeaux.
Mullins may be going all out to win the Deloitte (3pm) again, but Gordon Elliott has three runners of his own (cue Noel Meade’s Gunnery Sergeant springing a surprise). While it’s easy to see why Ruby Walsh appears to have chosen Saturnas, the gelding having won a Grade 1 over two miles here since his second to stable-companion Arlie Beach at the same level earlier in December, we’re going to take a punt on BACARDAYS at a much bigger price.
He bounced back from falling on his hurdling debut when winning at this track last time and should relish the step up to two and a quarter miles; he also has strong bumper form to call upon, having won the Grade 2 at Aintree last spring.
Jessica Harrington’s Our Duke showed plenty of resolution to fend off Coney Island in the Grade 1 Novice Chase over three miles at this course last time and should keep BELLSHILL honest in the Novice Steeplchase (3.30pm).
However, we still fancy the latter to come out on top.
A Grade 1 winner over hurdles last term, Bellshill maintained his unbeaten start over fences in a Limerick Grade 2 last time and remains one to follow. Gigginstown won this contest with Outlander last year and aren’t giving up the title lightly, as they run A Toi Phil, Balko des Flos and Disko.
The same firm run three in the Irish Gold Cup (4pm) too, including last year’s runner-up Road To Riches, but unfortunately for them they have been matched by J. P. McManus, whose trio includes dual winner CARLINGFORD LOUGH.
There must be a good chance he’ll complete the three-peat after his recent pipe-opener over hurdles. Don Poli reportedly remains on target for a tilt at the Aintree Grand National, while Sizing John is having his first start over three miles.