Mullins primes Shaneshill to deliver latest French success

Ruby Walsh to ride trainer’s choice for €175,000 Grade 2 Prix La Barka at Auteuil

Willie Mullins plans to divert top performers such as Wicklow Brave and Arctic Fire to the flat this summer but the focus resolutely remains on the jumps in Paris on Saturday when Shaneshill follows in some illustrious hoof-prints.

The €175,000 Prix La Barka is the most significant trial for next month’s French Champion Hurdle and Mullins’s long history with it goes back to 1984 when his father Paddy saddled the legendary Dawn Run to win it on route to victory in the Grande Course de Haies d’Auteuil.

Mullins has used the Grade 2 extensively himself over the years and Un De Sceaux won it a year ago before subsequently failing to become his trainer’s fifth French Champion Hurdle victor.

Shaneshill (Ruby Walsh) is joined by the Punchestown festival winner Open Eagle (Paul Townend) in Saturday’s renewal on a card that also sees Mullins’s Meri Devie line up in the €135,000 Grade 3 Prix Questerabad.


Walsh will remain in Auteuil to team up with Pravalaguna in Sunday’s listed Prix d’Arles while Mullins sends three runners to Limerick. They include the pair of Listen Dear and Westerner Lady for the mares novice chase.

The third Mullins runner at Limerick is the bumper contender Minella Beau who will attempt to confirm form with Adrian Maguire’s Gagas Horse although the drop back in trip could turn things in the latter’s favour.

Go Another One brings some smart bumper form to Limerick’s opening maiden hurdle but on these quick ground conditions Mr Showtime looks likely to be tough to beat.

Noel Meade’s runner rattled off fast going to win a bumper at Roscommon recently and his previous jumping experience can prove crucial.

A field of 10 will line up in Saturday night’s Preakness Stakes, the second leg of the US Triple Crown, with the Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming a hot favourite to continue his winning run. The race is due off at 11.48pm Irish time.

Unbeaten in four starts this year, Always Dreaming bids to confirm Derby form with the Churchill runner-up Lookin At Lee as well as Classic Empire (fourth) and Gunnevera (seventh).

"When you look at what he's done this year, to win his first two races by open lengths, and to win the Florida Derby and the Kentucky Derby by the margins he did, it's pretty exceptional. It's pretty rare you see that," said Always Dreaming's trainer, Todd Pletcher.

Neither Pletcher nor top jockey Johnny Velazquez has won the Preakness before.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

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