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Willie Mullins column: Naas winners in Cheltenham team


Our star columnist has a different weekend with runners in Riyadh and Navan while he reflects on more impressive recent winners.

I was pleased with Elimay’s win in the Opera Hat at Naas. She struggled a little bit at halfway but the further the race went the better she was going and it was a great prep for the Mrs Paddy Power Mares’ Chase at Cheltenham.

Yukon Lil finished third and it was a terrific run for a novice. She outjumped her opposition at all stages and just failed to get up the hill for second. Hopefully I can find an opportunity for her back in novice company this spring. Better ground will be a big factor to help her improve.

Gentleman De Mee won division two of the Naas Business Club Members Maiden Hurdle under a positive ride from Mark Walsh. He was very good for a horse who’d been off the track for so long. He could be anything. Because of his training difficulties in the autumn I didn’t have him as prepared as I could have for that run. With Cheltenham in mind we said we’d run and let him take his chance. He’s entitled to go there with the improvement he could make.

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Jodie Townend gave Cool Jet a good ride to win at Thurles. He was improving from his previous outing at Leopardstown and was very keen but she settled him as well as she could. She told me she took a pull turning for home he was going so well. He should line up at Cheltenham now all being well.

I was surprised to see Harrie win the beginners’ chase as well as he did. I was hoping for a clear round to get his confidence back but he seemed to have learned his lesson from his previous fall at Thurles and enjoyed being out there in front. He jumped from fence to fence and he’s improving coming into the spring.

Concertista is in the Quevega Hurdle at Punchestown on Wednesday. I didn’t declare her in the very tough conditions at Gowran on Saturday but the meeting was eventually abandoned, and we’ll have a look at this race. Her eight pounds penalty for a Grade Two win will make life tough in this against the likes of Great White Shark and Black Tears who are better in at the weights. We’ll decide nearer the day if she runs or not. Great White Shark is nicely treated and could well turn up

Concertista - another impressive win

We’re probably not going to Cheltenham with either Fighter Allen or Frere Tuck so they could go down for the Markaye Contracts Ltd Michael Purcell Memorial Novice Hurdle at Thurles on Thursday.

The former is a horse who has a lot more ability than we’ve seen yet. He has a great chance of showing it in this as it looks a hot renewal. I’m hoping my fellow can show improved form.

Frere Tuck won well the last day and it will give us a good idea where he stands in the staying novice hurdle division.

Cavallino would look a winner without a penalty in the I.N.H. Stallion Owners EBF Maiden Hurdle after his mistake at the last at Tramore last time. He could run here and will have a major chance wherever he goes next.

Micro Manage might get a day out in the maiden hurdle at 3.20. He’ll be ridden to get back on track and is one I’m looking forward to seeing back out.

With Gowran off we have two runners this weekend – at very different venues.

1.00 Riyadh – True Self

She’s settled in really well out in Saudi Arabia. She has form at a mile-and-a-quarter and a lot of the jockeys tell me that this is her trip. Usually in 10-furlong races the competition can be very hot but on this occasion it looks like the standard isn’t as high as it would be in Europe.

It looks like Channel Maker from America forces the pace which will suit our mare, who likes to come from behind. They’re giving the ground as good which she’ll handle, she did last year from a bad draw. We’re lucky to get Hollie Doyle too, she’s riding on the crest of a wave at the moment.

2.47 Navan Sunday – Scarpeta

If he could come back to his previous run on New Year’s Eve he could be in here with a shout but he was out of sorts at Gowran when Danny pulled him up in very heavy conditions last time. I’m hoping he can put that run behind him and get into the place money in this.

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