Min team excited by chasing
Connections of Min are taking nothing for granted as he kicks off his career over fences at Navan on Sunday.
Min is ready to make his chasing debut
The son of Walk In The Park was the subject of plenty of positive reports even before he made his debut for Willie Mullins at Punchestown almost a year ago and a seriously impressive performance saw his odds for the Supreme Novices' Hurdle harden.
A similarly emphatic victory in January's Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle saw him line up in the Cheltenham Festival curtain-raiser as a warm order, but he was forced to play second fiddle to the Nicky Henderson-trained Altior.
Min tackles the larger obstacles for the first time in the Irish Stallion Farms European Breeders Fund Beginners Chase, a race Mullins and owner Rich Ricci have won for the past three years with Ballycasey, Vautour and Douvan.
The trainer's son and assistant, Patrick Mullins, said: "We've schooled him over fences at home and we've been happy with his jumping.
"I think the track and trip should suit and if he can translate his hurdles form to fences, then he should be hard to beat.
"There is no such thing as an easy beginners' chase in Ireland, though. Every beginners' chase is like a Listed race as you always get one or two horses rated 130 or 140 up against you."
Min is the star attraction in a 17-runner field, with Henry de Bromhead's Fire In Soul and the Gordon Elliott-trained Squouateur among his opponents.
"Altior was very good in Cheltenham and I don't think our horse had any real excuses," Mullins added.
"Min does look more of a chaser than a hurdler – he's a very tall horse – so hopefully that will help, but Altior does look a bit special."
The seven-race card gets under way with the I.N.H. Stallion Owners European Breeders Fund Maiden Hurdle, in which the champion trainer unleashes Battleford.
The Punchestown winner was beaten just a nose by Ballyandy in the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham last season before a similarly narrow reverse at the hands of stable companion Bacardys at Aintree.
Mullins went on: "He's a tough little horse who was just beaten at Cheltenham and Aintree last season, so he was a top-class bumper horse.
"He came from a point-to-point, so he has experience jumping and we're looking forward to getting him started over hurdles.
"You'd hope he could be one of our leading novice hurdlers this season.
"I see him as a more of a stayer, but I think he has enough ability to be competitive over a strongly-run two miles."
Other contenders for the 30-runner two-mile opener include Noel Meade's dual bumper winner Joey Sasa and Elliott's recent Naas scorer Brelade.
Meade's Weightfordave and the Elliott-trained Bull Ride look two major players in the Davis Civil Engineering Handicap Hurdle. Any market support for Robert Tyner's Concordin, who reverts to hurdling for the first time since March 2014 for owner JP McManus, would be ominous, however.
The Proudstown Handicap Hurdle is always a fiercely competitive event and this year's renewal looks no exception.
The long-absent Milsean, Fire In His Eyes, Ah Littleluck and Scoir Mear are just some of the names to consider in a wide-open contest.
Stuart Crawford's high-class chaser Fine Rightly made his seasonal reappearance in this race 12 months ago, finishing 10th, and does so again.
"We started him off in this race last year and it didn't do him any harm," said the County Antrim-based trainer.
"He's in good form and I definitely expect him to improve this season. We ran him in the Grade One (Irish Gold Cup) earlier in the year and there was still a little bit of greenness there.
"I'm hoping we'll have a couple of big days out of him this season, for sure."
Mullins has won the last three runnings of the Coolmore N.H. Sires European Breeders Fund Mares Flat Race and relies on Glens Harmony this time around.
A full-sister to Cheltenham Festival winner Glens Melody, the four-year-old was third to high-class stablemate Augusta Kate at Punchestown in the spring and comfortably justified cramped odds at Ballinrobe on her only subsequent start.
She may not have it all her own way in this Listed contest, however, with Baby Twig, Magic Of Light and Three Swallowsnick all formidable opponents.