Mullins saddles six in bid for fifth straight Deloitte
Willie Mullins on Saturnas: "the extra 2f won't be a problem for him"
PICTURE: Patrick McCann (racingpost.com/photos) Mullins saddles six in bid for fifth straight Deloitte By Brian Sheerin 9:37AM 12 FEB 2017
WILLIE MULLINS will need a wheelbarrow to cart all six of his jockeys' saddles from the weighing room to the saddling enclosure at Leopardstown before this Grade 1.
Gordon Elliott ought to manage the three by himself while Noel Meade will be hoping Gunnery Sergeant can deliver his first Deloitte Novice Hurdle success since Pandorama in 2009.
Champagne Fever and Vautour won back-to-back renewals of this race in 2013 and 2014 before going on to claim Cheltenham Festival success in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle, while Nichols Canyon and Bleu Et Rouge followed up on those wins in recent seasons to leave the champion trainer chasing his fifth successive win in the race this afternoon.
Elliott has never managed to win the Deloitte Novice Hurdle but in Barra, Brelade and Blood Crazed Tiger he sends arguably his best ever challenge into battle today.
Moulding future stars
The Deloitte Novice Hurdle has been won by many subsequent stars such as Istabraq , Solerina  Brave Inca  and Vautour . Will we see another today?
What they say
Willie Mullins, trainer of Saturnas, Bunk Off Early, Bravissimo, Chateau Conti, Bacardys and Riven Light
Saturnas leads our team in this after his Grade 1 win here at Christmas, for which he escapes a penalty, and sets the standard now. The extra two furlongs won't be a problem for him as we think he has plenty of stamina. We're looking forward to a big run from him.
Bunk Off Early won well on his debut for us and I think a better pace will suit him and if his lack of experience doesn't tell, well then he shouldn't be far away. Bravissimo won nicely over 2m3f at Limerick in December on his first start for us and that win was on testing ground. Judging by his work at home, we think he'll be better on today's ground.
Chateau Conti won nicely at Cork where the ground was testing as well and he should cope better on the nicer ground in this, while Bacardys had very good bumper form last season and he won his maiden hurdle over this course and distance at Christmas. He needed some time off after that win and we think he should improve for the run.
Riven Light has lots of pace but his jumping last time left a lot to be desired and he has improvement to find now in such a competitive race.
Gordon Elliott, trainer of Blood Crazed Tiger, Brelade and Barra
Blood Crazed Tiger was a bit unlucky when he fell last time and this might be a bit short of his best trip. Barra is getting the mares' allowance and she's in top form. Brelade wouldn't have to improve a whole lot on the form to win this.
Noel Meade, trainer of Gunnery Sergeant
He's in good form. This will be a big step up in class for him but I think the extra distance will suit.