Company to fly Mullins flag in Thyestes
Views from connections ahead of the Goffs Thyestes Chase at Gowran Park on Thursday.
Champagne West runs at Gowran
Willie Mullins looks set to rely on Pleasant Company when bidding to win his seventh Goffs Thyestes Chase at Gowran Park on Thursday.
The perennial champion trainer first won the prestigious handicap at his local track with Micko's Dream in 2000 and added to his tally with subsequent Grand National winner Hedgehunter (2004) and Homer Wells (2007).
Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up On His Own won in 2012 and 2014 and Djakadam, who has twice finished second in the blue riband at Prestbury Park, struck gold two years ago.
Mullins has declared three horses for this year's renewal with Paddy Power Chase runner-up The Crafty Butcher the ante-post favourite.
However, the 10-year-old, who is part-owned by Mullins' son Patrick in partnership with some friends that include professional rugby players Ian Madigan and Dominic Ryan, is only third reserve and his stable companion Sambremont needs one horse above him to drop out to get a run.
"It's a shame The Crafty Butcher doesn't look like getting in, but we're hoping it'll be a blessing in disguise and he'll go and win an Irish National or a big handicap in Cheltenham instead," said Mullins jnr.
Pleasant Company is certainly no forlorn hope.
The nine-year-old has not been seen in competitive action since winning at last season's Punchestown Festival, but Mullins is anticipating a bold show.
He added: "The drying ground will probably be against a few horses in the race, but I think it will suit him.
"He has a reasonable weight on 11st 1lb. I suppose the fact that it's his first run of the season is a small disadvantage, but he has a lot in his favour.
"It's a very high-class race and our local Gold Cup.
"I think Arkle won it back in the day and we've won it with Djakadam and On His Own in recent years, as well as Hedgehunter.
"It would be great to win it again."
Roi Des Francs heads the weights and is one of seven runners for Mullins' title rival Gordon Elliott.
The master of Cullentra also saddles Clarcam, Ucello Conti, Jetstream Jack, Prince Of Scars, Bless The Wings and Shadow Catcher.
The Henry de Bromhead-trained Champagne West was an impressive winner of a Listed event Tramore on New Year's Day, beating Roi Des Francs by 12 lengths.
"He won well (at Tramore), liked the softer ground and jumped well," said De Bromhead.
"He's a nice horse and he's highly rated off 154.
"The softer the ground the better, from what we've seen, and he shapes like the trip should suit him."
Jimmy Mangan is quietly confident about the chances of Montys Meadow, who was runner-up on his latest outing at Limerick over the festive period.
He said: "I'm looking forward to it. I won it with Whinstone Boy (2010) and my father won it back in 1981, so it's a race I'd love to win (again).
"He needed the run in Limerick. The autumn was so dry and he loves heavy ground.
"Even at the moment the ground is on the quick side for him, but he's going to take his chance and I do fancy him.
"He has a beautiful racing weight and he's lightly raced because he's a light-framed horse.
"I've had this race in my mind for a long time and I'll be disappointed if he's not in the first four."
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