Au Quart De Tour primed to display his Cheltenham credentials

Several of Willie Mullins’s festival bumper team in action at Naas

Willie Mullins: has seven of the 11 entries left in the Paddy Power flat race at Naas on Sunday.

Willie Mullins: has seven of the 11 entries left in the Paddy Power flat race at Naas on Sunday.

 

A quartet of Grade Two contests will be the black-type highlights this weekend but it is a comparatively low-key €13,500 contest at Naas this Sunday which may wind up hogging much of the pre-Cheltenham focus as it currently features much of Willie Mullins’s powerful festival bumper team.

Mullins has seven of the 11 entries left in the Paddy Power Flat Race and they include Au Quart De Tour, already as low as 7-1 favourite for the Weatherbys Champion Bumper in three weeks’ time.

Au Quart De Tour justified a big reputation on his racecourse debut at Fairyhouse last month and bookmakers currently rate him the most likely to follow in the festival footsteps of ex- Mullins like Florida Pearl and Champagne Fever.

Eight wins

Against this imposing strength in depth, Gordon Elliott has left in both Tombstone and Tycoon Prince while the Gigginstown pair, Archie (Eoin Griffin) and Ice Cold Soul (Noel Meade) are also among the 11.

Adding to the potential significance of Sunday’s finale is its proven pedigree for throwing up Cheltenham contenders.

Hairy Molly won it in 2006 before going on to score at Cheltenham and Pizarro also advertised his claims late in 2002 before winning at the festival. Rite Of Passage won the Naas event in 2009 before finishing third to Dunguib at Cheltenham.

The Mullins team has left Twinlight in Sunday’s Grade Two chase at Naas while Max Dynamite is among four Closutton contenders for the novice hurdle but it is Dicosimo’s likely appearance in Saturday’s Grade Two Bambury Juvenile Hurdle at Fairyhouse that will attract plenty of interest.

Dicosimo is as low as 10-1 in some lists for the Triumph Hurdle after an impressive Irish debut at Gowran last month and has already been confirmed a likely Cheltenham contender by Mullins.

Just seven have been left in the event won by Abbyssial last year with Gordon Elliott responsible for three of them, including Thunder Zone and Vercingetorix.

Saturday’s other Grade Two is the attheraces Bobbyjo Chase, an established trial for the Aintree Grand National although only six horses have been left in the €42,500 event after the latest forfeit stage.

They include the Kim Muir winner, Spring Heeled, who also holds a Kempton entry on Saturday, as well as the Gigginstown pair, First Lieutenant and Roi Du Mee. The latter won the Bobbyjo two years ago while the subsequent Cheltenham Gold Cup runner up On His Own was successful in 2014.

Today’s bumper at Punchestown will keep attention fixed on the finale as it includes Jett who can start delivering on his illustrious pedigree with a first career success.

Jett’s damn, La Noire, has proved to be one of the most successful broodmares in the industry having already produced both the reigning Champion Hurdle winner Jezki and another Grade One winner in Jetson who is a 16-1 shot for the World Hurdle in three weeks time.

Jett came with a big reputation to his debut at Leopardstown a month ago but found Balko Des Flos too good.

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