David Mullins out to take crown from Faugheen at Leopardstown

The jockey will team with Petit Mouchoir and go up against Willie Mullins-trained champion

 David Mullins with his uncle, trainer Willie Mullins. The Grand National-winning jockey will attempt to foil his uncle’s plans to win the BHP  Irish Champion Hurdle in Leopardstown  for a seventh year in a row on Sunday. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

David Mullins with his uncle, trainer Willie Mullins. The Grand National-winning jockey will attempt to foil his uncle’s plans to win the BHP Irish Champion Hurdle in Leopardstown for a seventh year in a row on Sunday. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

 

David Mullins is set to team up with Petit Mouchoir in Sunday’s BHP Insurance Irish Champion Hurdle, where the Grand National-winning jockey will attempt to foil his uncle’s plans to win the Leopardstown highlight for a seventh year in a row.

Willie Mullins has indicated Faugheen is on course to defend his crown in the €110,000 Grade 1, which had been previously dominated for five years running by the legendary Hurricane Fly.

With Min already a hot 2-7 favourite for the other Grade 1 on the card – the Frank Ward Solicitors Arkle Novice Chase – the champion trainer again holds a strong hand for Sunday’s top-flight action, but a familiar face will be in the opposing camp.

Bryan Cooper’s frustrating run of injuries means Mullins’s nephew David will renew acquaintances with both Petit Mouchoir and also Identity Thief, who is set to return to action against Min in the big novice event.

Eddie O’Leary of Gigginstown House Stud has confirmed the 20-year-old rider, who rose to stardom when Rule The World landed the Aintree Grand National in April, will substitute for Cooper, who fractured his pelvis on New Year’s Eve.

Plum opportunity

The Henry De Bromhead-trained grey graduated to Grade 1 success himself when slamming Mullins’s old pal Nichols Canyon in the Ryanair Hurdle over Christmas and is rated an 11-8 shot by Paddy Power to emerge on top on Sunday.

It will be the fourth time Mullins has ridden Petit Mouchoir, the last of which saw him come behind Rashaan at Down Royal in early November. However, he has subsequently looked to step up with a vengeance on that effort.

“I rode him twice last season at Cheltenham and Aintree, and the longer the season went on the more he seemed to come to himself. He went from strength to strength and ran a very good race at Aintree. So hopefully I’ll be on him this Sunday and he can put in another good performance,” said Mullins.

“He’s a horse that likes to get on with things. He’s very quick and is very quick to jump. He has one gear and it’s a fast one,” he added.

Chasing debut

“The only way I can describe what Identity Thief did from the back of the last at Punchestown was that it was like driving a Ferrari. We went at a strong pace the whole way. But from the last to the line he took off like a Ferrari,” he enthused.

A much-anticipated Christmas clash between Min and Identity Thief failed to catch fire when the Gigginstown runner had to be pulled up after just five fences. However the pair are likely to renew their rivalry on Sunday.

“At Christmas Identity Thief got struck into and he lost a front shoe. Nothing went right on the day and maybe he lost his confidence a bit. But he’s in good form again and he hasn’t missed a lot of work,” said De Bromhead.

Not surprisingly, both he and Mullins are writing off that St Stephen’s Day reverse, and the jockey is looking forward to taking on Min again.

“Min is obviously very good but he got an easy lead the last day and Identity Thief is a horse that should be able to lie up with him at a proper pace,” Mullins said.

Big-race focus

Gowran

The two-mile Grade 1 was abandoned due to frost at Ascot last weekend and the Co Waterford trainer said, “I think Special Tiara will go to Cheltenham. The ground is better over there than it was at Ascot, so why not?”

In contrast, De Bromhead is anxious for some rain at Gowran where he hopes to run Champagne West in the Thyestes.

The going on the chase course at Gowran is currently “soft”.

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