Chacun Pour Soi poised for festive return at Leopardstown

Mullins primed to unleash strong squad for busy domestic campaign over Christmas

Willie Mullins is aiming for more festive dominance with Chacun Pour Soi set to be part of the champion trainer's hugely powerful squad over the Christmas period.

The highest rated horse in National Hunt racing proved a major flop on his return to action when last of five behind Greaneteen in the Tingle Creek at Sandown earlier this month.

It was Chacun Pour's second time to disappoint in Britain having finished only third as a 2-5 favourite for the Champion Chase at Cheltenham in March.

He came home from Sandown “very sore” in a hock but a legitimate excuse appears to have emerged for that sub-par effort and has its root in the evolutionary process.

“He took the chestnut off. That would be like a long distance runner losing a big toenail in a race. He was very sore when he came back and we didn’t notice until further down the line,” Mullins explained on Monday.

“The chestnut is a toe. A horse has five toes. The hoof is one. Right at the back of the hoof, the fetlock joint, there’s what we call an ergot, that’s two. Then you have the two splint bones, that’s three and four and the chestnut is the fifth toe.

“Over generations the faster ones obviously ran on the one toe and evolution means the other four just crept back up the leg. That’s what I’ve always been told anyway,” he added.

It means Chacun Pour Soi is still on course to try and repeat his success in last year's Paddy's Rewards Club Chase on Day Two of Leopardstown Christmas action.

“We will run at Christmas. There is a race at Kempton but I think we’ll go to Leopardstown. He loves Leopardstown.

“But we will have to get him travelling somewhere. That’s a couple of times now. We blamed ourselves for Cheltenham last year in not letting him run and jump but maybe he doesn’t like travelling,” Mullins commented.

The sport's top trainer has always adopted a 'horses for courses' policy and it could pay off in style in Leopardstown's final day feature where Sharjah will try to win the €150,000 Matheson Hurdle for a fourth year running.

Two of hurdling's all-time greats, Istabraq and Hurricane Fly won the race four times but not consecutively.

First start

“It’s the old story, horses for courses, and he seems to like it. Patrick [Mullins] is very keen to aim him at it,” he said.

Mullins also confirmed he plans to give Appreciate It a first start over fences in a Beginners Chase over the holiday period while another Cheltenham winner, Sir Gerhard, will line up in a maiden hurdle.

Last year Mullins saddled 16 winners from 49 runners over Christmas including 13 at Leopardstown. Half a dozen were Grade One winners and they collected a whopping €562,110 in prizemoney.

Worryingly for his opposition, ground conditions could allow the full weight of Closutton come to bear on the upcoming action for the first time this season.

"We haven't been able to get horses out with the weather and there's so little racing now before Chrsitmas so hopefully we'll have a lot of runners between Leopardstown, Limerick and possibly Down Royal. They [the string] seem to be in great order" Mullins commented.

As well as the domestic action, a raid on Kempton's King George VI Chase on St Stephen's Day hasn't been ruled out by Mullins for Asterion Forlonge.

The grey was travelling noticeably well until exiting at the third last fence of the John Durkan Chase won by his stable companion Allaho.

Separately, Ronald Pump holds an entry in the three-mile Christmas Hurdle on Day Three of Leopardstown but is set to try and break his Grade One duck before that at Ascot on Saturday.

The Matthew Smith-trained star, who has chased home Honeysuckle in the last two renewals of the Hatton's Grace, was the sole Irish hope among 11 entries left in the Howden Long Walk Hurdle on Monday.

Course victory

No Irish-trained horse has won the final top-flight prize before Christmas but Ronald Pump is a general 7-1 shot to fill that gap.

Top of the betting is the Nicky Henderson hope Buzz, winner of the Cesarewitch and who transferred that flat form to a smooth course victory over flights last time out.

His stable companion Champ is also in the mix while Paisley Park, winner in 2018 and last year, is also a potential starter.

Henry De Bromhead's rising star Bob Olinger remains a possible to make his second start over fences at Ascot on Friday.

The impressive Cheltenham festival winner is one of just half a dozen potential starters for a Grade Two novice chase over two and a quarter miles.

Bob Olinger received mixed reviews for the style of his debut success over fences at Gowran last month.