Kemboy, Chacun Pour Soi and Faugheen are among the stars that will be in action for Ireland’s champion trainer Willie Mullins at the Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown on 1 and 2 February.
The Closutton stable are set to be well represented on both days of the showpiece fixture, as they bid for a lion’s share of the eight Grade One prizes on offer.
Kemboy, who goes for the Paddy Power Irish Gold Cup on Saturday week, is expected to be a leading member of the team.
The eight-year-old was reported by Mullins’ son and assistant Patrick to have benefited greatly for his belated first run of the season, when fourth in the Savills Chase at Leopardstown’s Christmas meeting.
“Kemboy ran well in Leopardstown over Christmas. He needed the run – I expect him to improve considerably from that run,” said Mullins, speaking in a press conference call on Monday.
“This has been a lucky race for us.”
Kemboy will be accompanied by last year’s winner, Bellshill.
“He won this race last year and has had three runs since,” said Mullins.
“His main aim will be the Punchestown Gold Cup which he has won in the past.”
Mullins has a vested interest in the Flogas Novice Chase, as Faugheen (above) is a likely runner having given the amateur rider one of the highlights of his career when winning the Grade One Matchbook Betting Exchange Novice Chase at Limerick over Christmas.
“It was magic at Limerick,” he said.
“There is a certain responsibility riding a horse like that. I didn’t think we’d beat Samcro, but he jumped great and winged the second-last and the last. It was a very special occasion.
“This is the obvious place to go for him. I imagine Paul (Townend) would like to get his leg back over, but we’ll see. But if he decides he wants to ride one of the others I’ll put my hand up. Paul is number one and he gets first shout.”
Laurina will try to make amends for a below-par display in the Racing Post Novice Chase at Christmas, when she was sent off favourite.
“She was reported to have burst (a blood vessel) so that was quite a significant reason,” said Mullins.
“That would be worrying, but we have seen horses do it and it doesn’t come back. Perhaps she was just under the weather.”
Mullins is hoping to keep the ride on his old favourite Sharjah in the PCI Irish Champion Hurdle.
They have teamed up to win the Grade One hurdle at Leopardstown’s Christmas meeting for the last two years.
“I love riding him. He’s such an easy horse to ride. You could ride him with your baby toe and your baby finger. He does everything very easily,” he said.
“He enjoys dry ground. Last year when he won at Leopardstown it was a slow-run race and he was able to come through and win.
“This year it was a fast-run race and he was able to come through and win, so he’s quite adaptable in that way. Hopefully I’ll get to ride him again.”
Klassical Dream was last of five behind Sharjah last time – but Mullins still has faith in last season’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner when he has conditions to suit.
“Obviously Klassical Dream the last day made a bad mistake and that put paid to his chances, but if he learns from that he’s still a high-class horse so it should be a cracking race,” he said.
“I think he probably wants soft ground to be a two-mile champion hurdler.”
The exciting French recruit Chacun Pour Soi is among a formidable Mullins’ raid on the Ladbrokes Dublin Chase, as he looks to bounce back from defeat at Christmas.
“He still has to prove himself, but he does have huge potential,” said Mullins junior.
“I thought he jumped fantastic in Leopardstown at Christmas for a horse that only had one chase run in France and two runs as a novice, he jumped spectacular.
“I wonder if we were a bit forward on him and I think he just blew up. Our horses have needed their first run so I wouldn’t be too worried.”
Min, first the post in this race the last two years, is set to make another appearance.
Mullins went on: “I think he got the run of the race in the John Durkan. Everything seemed to want to drop out, but I expect him to improve for that. He won despite not being at his best. He made a few mistakes, which was unusual.
“I think we will run three or four in this race. Cilaos Emery and Duc Des Genievres are in there as well. It’s going to be a very competitive race.”
Melon (above), Bapaume and Cash Back are on course for the ERSG Arkle Novices’ Chase.
Melon won at Leopardstown over Christmas and Mullins thinks he will be better over a longer distance than this two miles and a furlong.
“I think when he steps up in trip you’ll see improvement in his form and he is in the Flogas as well so we’ll have to see which one he runs in, but to me he jumps like a horse that wants further,” he said.
“Bapaume and Cash Back have good winning form over fences, too. I think Bapaume is going to improve a few pounds to make him a proper Grade One chaser. Cash Back has improved for going fencing and I think two miles is his job.”
Summing up the stable’s expectations for the meeting, Mullins said: “Kemboy and Chacun Pour Soi are two very important ones.
“They are leading hopes for the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Champion Chase, but for me personally I’d love to see Faugheen win the Flogas.
“To me that would be the biggest result.”