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The Dublin Racing Festival gets underway on Saturday and Danny Mullins gave us his thoughts ahead of what looks to be two fascinating days in Ireland. With lots to talk about, Danny highlighted the ones that he thought might be worth siding with in the big races, and interestingly goes against his uncle, Willie, in the Irish Champion Hurdle.

Read on to find out what he had to say about all of the top racing this weekend.

Mullins holds all the cards in the opener

“I get the ride on Stattler in the opening race of the Festival, and I couldn’t be happier about that.” The ante-post favourite for the Albert Bartlett will face his stiffest opposition so far. “He showed at Leopardstown last time out that he likes the slow ground and he won’t want this to be too much quicker.”

He takes on Mullins’ Gaillard Du Mesnil, who Paul Townend has opted for, and will also enjoy plenty of juice in the ground. Both come here off victories over 2m4f at the track and the stopwatch brigade will no doubt be keen to point to their respective winning times. Danny’s mount clocked in eight seconds quicker carrying 5lb more than his stablemate. Stattler will be giving 2lb to his rival here and Danny will be hoping he can land a Grade 1 early doors.

Stattler looks to be the biggest chance of the week for Danny Mullins

No surprise in stall for Chacun

The Dublin Chase looks to be a rematch between Min and Chacun Pour Soi but there appears to be only one winner in Danny’s eyes. “I mean Chacun Pour Soi is just head and shoulders above every other two-miler in the country. He may come up against something over at the Festival that might cause a surprise but he looks to be one of the bankers of the week for me.”

Danny spoke very highly of Tornado Flyer’s 2nd in the John Durkan but a disappointing fifth in the Savills raised a few question marks. “I personally think that two and a half is the perfect trip for him but hopefully the Dublin Chase will provide some answers.”

Energumene looks the real deal

Shishkin has been everyone’s favourite for the Arkle pretty much since he won the Supreme. Nothing in the UK has laid a glove on Nicky Henderson’s star yet, but Mullins thinks that this seven-year-old is the one to take him on.

“Since the start of this season, Energumene has looked the real deal. He likes a stiff trip and every time we see him at home he looks to get better and better.” Danny gets the ride on Blackbow who is no pushover himself. “He fell here at Leopardstown when Franco De Port won on Boxing Day in a very strange race. Felix Desjy went far too fast that day, so it will be interesting to see how he gets on.”

Champion Hurdle is a proper race

“Honeysuckle and Sharjah are probably going to go off near enough joint favourites, but this race has so much more to it than just those two.” It is not often that one can fault an unbeaten horse and five-time Grade 1 winner, however, Danny Mullins believes that Henry De Bromhead’s seven-year-old mare has something to prove. “She barely hung on ahead of Ronald Pump. Matt Smith’s horse is good but you would have expected a much stronger performance.”

Sharjah is the one arriving here in the best form having won at Leopardstown in December, but the ground may just be a little challenging for him. “Abacadbras is the one that might be worth going with today. Saint Roi looked the best in the Morgiana and he still didn’t manage to get past him. then he wasn’t at the level we know he can get to in the Matheson.”

Abacadabras can show Saint Roi and Honeysuckle who's boss

Difficult to ignore Kilcruit in the bumper

This season we may have a crop of special bumper horses on our hands in Ireland. Sir Gerhard, Hollow Games and Knappers Hill are just but a few and on Saturday we’ll see another batch looking to lay down a marker.

“Whatdeawant was a very nice winner at Fairyhouse and looks as though he might be improving after being a little backward early on. Ramillies seems to have recovered really well from his injuries as a five-year-old after winning comfortably here at the end of December, but at the end of the day it is really difficult to ignore Kilcruit.”

As is often the way when selecting which Mullins horse to back, “you just need to spot which one Patrick is going to ride, and here he is opting to ignore two very smart horses for Kilcruit, so he has to be the selection.”

Kilcruit looking to put his foot down in the Bumper

Last one on the list for Willie

The opening race on Sunday at Leopardstown is the only race that Willie Mullins is yet to win. He will want this one badly and will have a few representatives in the race. “Getaway Gorgeous is one to watch but for me the place bet is Rescue Package. Anthony is really fond of her and she is arriving in great form.

On the other hand, Willie has had his decent share of success in the Spring Juvenile Hurdle with the likes of Footpad and Mr Adjudicator.

“I'm not sure Quilixios has beaten anything of note yet. He might be the one that everyone fancies but they were really weak races he won. The same can be said for French Aseel’s victory I guess, the field wasn’t that deep so this will be the true test.”

If you are looking for a place value in the race then Mullins thinks Saint Sam could be one to keep an eye on. “He has some very good form behind Zanahiyr so watch out for him, especially if the race remains with eight runners.”

Appreciate It deserves to be favourite but don’t rule out Blue Lord

The Chanelle Pharma Novice Hurdle is a race that tees up the Supreme and Ballymore winners at Cheltenham. In the not too distant past we have seen Klassical Dream, Samcro, Vautour and Champagne Fever set Ireland alight in this race.

“Heading into the Future Champions I thought Ballyadam was going to breeze up and show Appreciate It what he was made of, but for some reason on the day we just didn’t see the best of him. Appreciate It deserves to be favourite this time and he really looks like he could be a star. Ballyadam has a lot to prove but Willie’s other one, Blue Lord, is not to be ignored.”

A second to Bob Olinger is some form and you have to consider how highly thought of the De Bromhead horse is. “That was Blue Lord’s first competitive race of the season and so this will be another stiff test but a good one to find out just how good he is.”

Monkfish is as rock solid as it gets

The penultimate Grade 1 of the Festival is the Flogas Novice Chase where perhaps the other banker of the weekend lies. Monkfish has been superh over fences this season and the 2020 Albert Bartlett winner looks to be a Gold Cup horse in the making. Latest Exhibition showed that he is no pushover staying on all the way to the line here last time out but Rich Ricci’s seven-year-old should have too much for him once again.

“The one that we all want to see the true potential of is Asterion Forlonge. He has got serious ability and I’m sure he will show his true colours soon. The strange thing is that he made some very simple mistakes and you’d expect them to be easily ironed out. Another fall and you’d think that Willie might opt for hurdles for the rest of the season and come back to chasing down the line.”

“How can you not side with Monkfish though, he’s as solid as it gets and not only has he shown great jumping ability, but he has also proved that he loves a match, you saw that in the Albert Bartlett and here last time.”

Monkfish looking a million dollars at Leopardstown

Change of tactics for Melon in Irish Gold Cup 

“At the beginning of the season I thought Minella Indo was going to be the one to lay down the challenge to Al Boum Photo this season. But his run in the Savills Chase shows the fine margins really.

“With Kemboy you know what you’re going to get. He jumps well, but does slightly fade. If the race is run at a medium tempo then he is one to go with.

“You can’t rule out Delta Work, he’s only eight-years-old and has won this race before. Jack Kennedy will be back on board and you just know if he jumps well, he will be there at the end of the race.

“Willie is going to change his tactics a bit though with Melon to save some for the closing stages. He is going to be ridden a bit more conservatively rather than right up with the pace. The question mark is whether he has the Gold Cup trip in him, but he was so narrowly beaten in the Savills that we are pretty confident he has it in him as long as the race is run slightly differently. He’ll get his big one soon enough.

When pushing Danny for a selection he opts for Minella Indo. The confidence of Rachael Blakmore and just the type of horse he is, he has a huge chance of bouncing back.

Melon will be seeking the big win he deserves

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