Mar 12, 756 days ago

Mullins targets Martin Pipe Hurdle

Mullins targets Martin Pipe Hurdle

It has already been a great week for Trainer Willie Mullins with an opening day four-timer, a 1-2-3 in the Champion Hurdle and Don Poli’s impressive RSA Chase victory. The County Carlow handler will be looking to add to his tally in the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle, the penultimate race at this year’s Cheltenham Festival.

The race was introduced in 2009 and Mullins has already won it twice with Sir Des Champs and Don Poli. He has several entries again this year with Roi Des Francs the clear favourite after winning well at Clonmel last month.

The six-year-old son of Poliglote was beaten by Drumacoo on his hurdling debut at Punchestown in October but made amends at Thurles next time. He races in the familiar colours of Gigginstown House Stud, as did his previous two winners of the two and a half mile contest.

He could be joined in the race by McKinley, a son of Kheleyf out of a Montjeu mare. He sprang a 33-1 shock when winning a Grade 1 hurdle at Naas in January and does not look harshly treated off a mark of 136. He was no match for stable companion Nichols Canyon in the Deloitte Hurdle at Leopardstown last month but has been the subject of each-way support at long odds.

David Pipe would dearly love to win the race named in honour of his father, Martin. He still had eleven entries ahead of the final declaration stage and will be hoping that some of them make the cut. Vieux Lion Rouge was heavily backed in this race last year but faded badly over the closing hurdles to finish in the rear.

He has not raced since Haydock in November while Balgarry, a beaten favourite in the Coral Cup in 2012, needs several to come out above him. The same applies to Dr Richard Newland’s Imperial Cup winner Ebony Express despite a 5lbs penalty.

Paul Nicholls landed one major handicap on Wednesday when Aux Ptit Soins won the Coral Cup. There has plenty of support for the stable’s Le Mercurey here, another French import with very little form in this country.

The son of Nickname was a remote seventh at Newbury on his debut for his new yard but improved to finish third to Baradari in a Grade 2 handicap at Ascot in January. He seemed to hit a flat spot three out that day before running on again at the finish. Sean Bowen has been booked to ride on Friday with the race due off at 4.40.

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