Mullins mounts formidable assault on Trull House Stud Mares’s Novices tomorrow

Willie Mullins

Willie Mullins

Willie Mullins mounts a formidable assault on the Trull House Stud Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham on Thursday.

Ireland's perennial champion trainer won the inaugural running of the Grade Two contest with Limini 12 months ago and appears to hold all the aces once again.

Heading the market is Let's Dance, who was fourth in the Triumph Hurdle at last year's Festival and has been hugely impressive in her four starts this season.

Stable companion Airlie Beach is unbeaten in seven starts and is already a Grade One winner having won the Royal Bond at Fairyhouse in December.

Patrick Mullins, assistant to his father, said: "Let's Dance has the edge in experience as she's a second-season novice, which is a huge advantage.

"She has a lot of ability, she's looked very impressive this season and beat the boys on her last run at Leopardstown. She goes there in super form.

"However, Airlie Beach already has Grade One-winning form and I think her run in the Royal Bond is probably the best two-mile form in Ireland this year, with Saturnas, Forge Meadow and Penhill all behind her.

"On a line through Shattered Love, who they've both beaten, I don't think there's much between them and they must both go there with big chances."

The Closutton handler has a third string to his bow in the form of Asthuria. The six-year-old, who carries the same silks as the legendary Hurricane Fly, has fallen in races won by Shattered Love the last twice, but Mullins junior believes she merits respect.

"Asthuria can't be discounted. She was travelling well with Shattered Love when she fell in Thurles a couple of starts back and would have won the last day when she fell at the last," Mullins added.

"She has a huge engine and if she can keep her jumping together, she's definitely not out of it."

Jessica Harrington's Forge Meadow and the Gordon Elliott-trained Barra are also part of a strong Irish challenge, while Titi De Montmartre represents France.

Heading the home team is La Bague Au Roi, who has always been held in the highest regard by Warren Greatrex and is three from three over hurdles.

"She has done everything right. She has had her winter break and seems in very good form," said Greatrex.

"The drying ground will help her chance. It is a very good race and it will tell us where we stand.

"She went to Newbury for a racecourse gallop and that will have helped her. The ground was very bad but she surprised me how well she went through it, which was very pleasing."

Coillte Lass won on her first three starts for Paul Nicholls before finishing third behind a below-par Vroum Vroum Mag at Doncaster.

Nicholls said: "Coillte Lass has been really progressive. She won her first three starts and then was third to Vroum Vroum Mag at level weights at Doncaster.

"It is great for Ditcheat Thoroughbreds to have a runner with a live chance at the Festival in their first year of operation."

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