Analifet may have most to fear from stablemate Noble Inn
Willie Mullins could be in line for a four-timer at Leopardstown on St Stephen’s Day
Willie Mullins: looks the trainer to follow at Leopardstown on St Stephen’s Day.
Analifet’s current 1/3 odds for Leopardstown are unlikely to be appealing for the majority of once-a-year punters on St Stephen’s Day but even if there’s a shock and she fails to deliver, it’s hard to escape the conclusion that her stable companion, Noble Inn, might be the one most likely to take advantage.
The Willie Mullins-trained pair line up in the Grade Two Knight Frank Juvenile Hurdle, just as they did in a similar race at Fairyhouse over three weeks ago. On that occasion, Analifet bounced straight into the lead under Ruby Walsh and wound up winning easily from her stable-mate.
That was enough to make her clear favourite for the Triumph in March, although it was noticeable that Mullins stressed afterwards that softer ground conditions will help Noble Inn whose jumping technique didn’t look as smooth as the winner’s.
Noble Inn will get his preferred going this time, and has secured more experience, but a softer surface will hardly be a huge inconvenience for Analifet either.
Guitar Pete, runner-up to Royal Irish Hussar at Cheltenham, will provide a useful cross-channel form comparison while the Irish newcomer Arzeembuoy Premier brings winning form in both a hurdle and a bumper in France earlier this year.
Come out on top
The gap might not be as wide between Analifet and Noble Inn this time. However, the filly can still come out on top.
Vedettariat disappointed on his bumper start last season but should prove a different proposition this time in the finale while another Mullins horse to focus on should be Clondaw Court in the opener.
Briar Hill wound up bounding up the hill at Cheltenham in the Champion Bumper in March yet the Mullins team were in no doubt at one stage last winter that Clondaw Court was their outstanding bumper performer. The visual evidence of his 27-length winning debut was stunning and there will be real interest in his first start over flights. Longer trips are likely to suit him in time but Clondaw Court is hard to oppose.
Daneking is the Mullins representative in the other maiden hurdle, a race that looks much more competitive with Gigginstown represented by Wrath Of Titans and even the top flat trainers, Aidan O’Brien and Dermot Weld, pitching in high-class flat runners.
Stuccodor and Beach Of Falesa ran here in October’s Trigo Stakes, the former off a mark of 104, but on balance, preference is for Wrath Of Titans, third to Moyle Park over flights, and only just beaten by the same high-class prospect in last season’s Land Rover Bumper.
Wrath Of Titans’ jockey Davy Russell will also have his followers when he teams up with Charles Byrnes for the Thurles winner Sea Light in the handicap hurdle.
Most of the runners in the handicap chase look tightly bound in terms of form but the exception is the novice Elegant Statesman who can score for owner JP McManus.
A winner on soft ground over hurdles, but versatile in terms of going, Elegant Statesman has hardly set the novice ranks alight as he once promised he might, but a mark of 123 on his fourth start over fences, sees him run off an attractive race weight.
Noel Meade’s Perfect Smile looks a likely danger.