Mullins aims for Deloitte domination
Willie Mullins fires a six-strong assault on the Deloitte Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown on Sunday in a bid to win the Grade One prize for a fifth successive year.
Saturnas: Goes for the Deloitte
The champion trainer has claimed the two-and-a-quarter-mile contest five times in all, first striking gold with Alexander Banquet in 1999.
Champagne Fever and Vautour won successive renewals in 2013 and 2014 before going on to claim Cheltenham Festival glory in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle, while Nichols Canyon and Bleu Et Rouge have claimed victory for the Closutton team in the last two years.
Explaining the decision to run so many this time around, the trainer's son and assistant, Patrick Mullins, said: "After the dry autumn, we had a few of the horses who were a bit later to start off than is sometimes the case. Because of that, we need to get runs into a few horses for experience.
"It's a Grade One and they're all entitled to be there."
Heading the formidable team is Saturnas, winner of the Future Champions Novice Hurdle over Christmas and the chosen mount of stable jockey Ruby Walsh.
Second rider Paul Townend has opted to ride another impressive course scorer in Bunk Off Early, while Mullins junior gets the leg up on Bacardys, a horse he steered to big-race success in the bumper sphere at Aintree last spring.
Bravissimo (Katie Walsh), Chateau Conti (Mikey Fogarty) and Riven Light (Danny Mullins) complete the sextet.
"Saturnas is already a Grade One winner, so he sets a standard the rest have to get to," said Mullins.
"River Light jumped poorly behind Saturnas the last day, but I thought he ran a very good race considering how badly he jumped. If he can get his jumping together, he could be bang there.
"Bacardys was a very good bumper horse and won over hurdles in Leopardstown over Christmas.
"Bravissimo, Bunk Off Early and Chateau Conti were all impressive in their maiden hurdles, but it's obviously a big step up from a maiden to a Grade One.
"We'll find out plenty about all of them on Sunday."
Gordon Elliott, a major threat to Mullins in the race to be crowned this season's champion trainer in Ireland, saddles Blood Crazed Tiger (David Mullins), Brelade (Barry Geraghty) and Barra (Jack Kennedy).
The Noel Meade-trained Gunnery Sergeant, the mount of Sean Flanagan, completes the field.
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