Strong Gold hand for Mullins
Last Updated: 20/04/19 2:02pm
Voix Du Reve and Real Steel give Willie Mullins a strong hand as he bids for successive victories in the Ryanair Gold Cup at Fairyhouse.
Subsequent Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Al Boum Photo finally provided the champion trainer with his first victory in this Grade One event 12 months ago and he will have high hopes of doubling his tally in the Easter Sunday feature.
Ruby Walsh keeps the faith in Voix Du Reve, who has failed to complete in his last two starts - most recently unseating Walsh in the JLT Novices' Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.
David Casey, Mullins' assistant, said: "Voix Du Reve looked to be going well in Cheltenham when he unseated Ruby. Before that he was third behind Le Richebourg in Leopardstown over Christmas and he was upsides in front when he fell at the last in another Grade One the next day.
"He's got some solid form in the book and we think two and a half will suit him well."
Voix Du Reve is joined by stablemate Real Steel, who finished sixth in the JLT under Paul Townend, who is on board once more.
"Real Steel made a couple of mistakes at the wrong time in Cheltenham and still ran well enough," Casey added.
"There are less runners on Sunday, which will probably make things a bit easier for him, and he was in good form going over to Cheltenham.
"There's probably not a lot between the two of them and you'd hope they'll both be competitive."
The highest-rated runner is Gordon Elliott's Mengli Khan, who was third in the JLT and occupied the same finishing position in the Manifesto Novices' Chase at Aintree little over a fortnight ago.
Cubomania gives Elliott a second string to his bow, with Aidan Howard's stable star Winter Escape completing the field.
Winter Escape completed a hat-trick when beating subsequent Cheltenham hero A Plus Tard at Punchestown in January, but has not been seen in competitive action since finishing fifth in the Flogas Novice Chase at Leopardstown the following month.
Howard said: "He seems in very good form and hopefully he'll run well.
"The race has cut up a bit, but Mengli Khan is holding his form well and Willie's horse (Voix Du Reve) ran a big race behind Le Richebourg over Christmas, so it's still a tidy little race.
"It would be a help to us if they got a bit of rain, but they are watering and are saying the ground will be good to yielding, which is fine."
Rest of the card
Cheltenham Festival heroine Eglantine Du Seuil leads a seven-strong Willie Mullins team into battle in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares Novice Hurdle Championship Final at Fairyhouse on Sunday.
The champion trainer has claimed this Grade One prize four times in the last six years, with Annie Power (2013) and Laurina (2018) among those on the roll of honour.
Eglantine Du Seuil ensured Mullins landed the Dawn Run Mares' Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham for the fourth time in as many years last month when springing a 50-1 surprise under Noel Fehily - who swiftly announced his impending retirement from the saddle.
Ruby Walsh gets back on board the five-year-old this weekend and a bold bid is anticipated.
David Casey, Mullins' assistant, said: "Ruby has gone for Eglantine Du Seuil. She was good in Cheltenham and it was probably a bit of a surprise to see her win there.
"We think she's definitely improved since then and we're looking forward to running her."
Eglantine Du Seuil is joined by six stable companions in Buildmeupbuttercup (Denis O'Regan), Calie Du Mesnil (Bryan Cooper), Elfile (Jonathan Burke), Robin De Carlow (JJ Slevin), Salsaretta (Paul Townend) and Sancta Simona (Mark Walsh).
Casey added: "Robin De Carlow has done plenty of winning and will like the ground and coming back in trip should suit Salsaretta - she was just too keen over three miles in the Albert Bartlett in Cheltenham.
"Elfile is another I'd give a bit of a chance to. She wasn't far behind Eglantine Du Seuil in Cheltenham (finished sixth) and the step up in trip will really suit her, so she could surprise a few people."
Perhaps the one to beat is Henry de Bromhead's Honeysuckle.
The daughter of Sulamani is unbeaten in four starts - including a point-to-point - and completed her hat-trick over hurdles with a dominant Grade Three success at Fairyhouse in January.
She was forced to miss an intended trip to Cheltenham after suffering a setback, but will head into the spring a fresh horse as a result.
The sole British-trained runner in a 17-strong field is Annie Mc - trained by Jonjo O'Neill and ridden by his son, Jonjo jnr.
The five-year-old has won twice this season in the colours of the Coral Champions Club, most recently dominating her rivals in a Newbury handicap.
Other contenders include Philip Dempsey's Caravation and Gordon Elliott's pair of Black Tears and Tintangle.