Mullins-Elliott battle set to continue into new year

Mullins hope Aldechi Inois faces two Elliott runners in the Listed Chase at Tramore

The first action of 2017 looks like it will continue the 2016 narrative with Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott continuing their battle for supremacy and the fallout from Michael O'Leary's decision to split with the champion trainer bubbling underneath.

Tramore’s Listed Chase feature has just five runners but contains all the familiar ingredients as the Mullins hope Alelchi Inois faces two Elliott representatives, one of which, Roi Des Francs, was switched by Gigginstown in September.

Despite saddling a remarkable 22 winners over Christmas, the impact of his split with O'Leary cost Mullins both the Lexus and the Ryanair Hurdle at Leopardstown during the week and it could be a similar story in the first black-type event of the new year.

Alelchi Inois is unlikely to relish very soft ground and while local hope Champagne West has a major shout on official figures, his jumping remains a concern.


The Tramore track is hardly ideal for Roi Des Francs but his best form gives him a major chance and there’s likely to be significant improvement from his first start for Elliott when running behind Champagne Fever at Thurles.

Elliott can also score in the first of the handicap hurdles with Monday's Down Royal runner-up Broughton's Star but the first prize of the new year can fall to Henry De Bromhead.

Winning start

The local trainer memorably got his career off to a winning start when scoring with his first runner, on the first day of the new millennium.

Adreamstsillalive is unlikely ever to compare to some of the stars that have been through De Bromhead’s hands since but showed enough when runner-up to Ardera Cross here earlier this month to suggest he can win at this level.

David Mullins is on duty for De Bromhead at Tramore rather than going to the other New Year's Day fixture at Fairyhouse and that call can also be rewarded with Motown Bob in the novice chase.

The Mullins-Elliott-O’Leary theme also looks like being played out in Fairyhouse’s Beginners Chase with Arbre de Vie taking on Fagan and the ex-Mullins trained Balko Des Flos lining up for De Bromhead.

Balko Des Flos has the advantage of having had a spin over fences and time may show he was attempting a very difficult task indeed in trying to match strides with Bellshill at Gowran.

Big threat

Arbre de Vie has also run over fences but made a number of mistakes at Thurles last January and was subsequently switched back to hurdles. The Albert Bartlett runner-up Fagan could emerge as Balko Des Flos's big threat.

Denis O’Regan takes over from David Mullins on the high-class flat mare, Toe The Line, who goes in the mares maiden hurdle.

C'est Jersey should be capable of stepping up from her run behind Any Second Now a month ago and take the opener while Ruby Walsh can also strike on Tom Mullins's Top Othe Ra who ran third to Concordin at Leopardstown on Tuesday.

JP McManus has four set to run in the €20,000 handicap chase. Robbie Power won on Thirsty Work for the owner during the week and will certainly not lack for confidence on White Arm after Our Duke's dramatic Grade One victory on Thursday.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor is the racing correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Tipping Point column