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Monday 5 December 2016

Mullins' four of a kind hope

World Hurdle winner More of That is a fascinating runner is going for Gold

Prince Of Scars, with Bryan Cooper up, on their way to winning the Clonmel Oil Service Station Handicap Hurdle last November
Prince Of Scars, with Bryan Cooper up, on their way to winning the Clonmel Oil Service Station Handicap Hurdle last November

Willie Mullins might only have four runners across the weekend but there is certainly plenty to look forward to in Cheltenham, Naas and Navan as the top class National Hunt action continues to heat up.

World Hurdle winner More Of That is a fascinating runner in the BetVictor Gold Cup on day two of the Open Meeting at Cheltenham and of course Thistlecrack will have his second outing over fences but domestically there will be plenty of clues for the season ahead at the two Leinster tracks.

Enjoyed

Ahead of the weekend action it was revealed that leading young jockey Jonathan Burke has parted ways with owners Alan and Ann Potts after a two-year association.

The Cork native, who enjoyed a first Grade One victory on Sizing John for the Potts family, is looking forward to "a new chapter" and will have four rides at Naas today before travelling to Cheltenham tomorrow to ride Mountain Rock for Adrian Keatley in the bumper.

At the end of last season Alan Potts opted to take all their horses away from Henry de Bromhead and opened links with Mouse Morris, Jessica Harrington and Colm Murphy as well as the existing association with Jim Dreaper but when Murphy announced his shock retirement earlier in the year, Potts opted to move a portion of horses to Colin Tizzard in the UK. Burke said yesterday: "Alan has a lot in the UK now but there are still some nice horses in Ireland like Sizing John and Supasundae to name just two.

"But going forward, I just think this is the right decision for my career," he added.

"I'd like to thank Alan and Ann for the opportunity they gave me a such a young age and there is no doubt my career wouldn't be where it is today with them.

"Riding for Henry de Bromhead, Jessica Harrington, Colm Murphy and Mouse Morris has been a great experience.

"I'll go freelance and I've had support from a lot of trainers in my career to date so I hope they continue to support me. I'll put my head down and work hard.

"When I was younger I had contacts with Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott and I already ride for the likes of Sandra Hughes, Arthur Moore, Peter Fahey and Denis Hogan."

Among the four rides that Burke has to look forward to today is the Sandra Hughes-trained Acapella Bourgeois who lines up in the beginners chase.

In the same beginners chase Prince Of Scars will make his chasing bow for Gordon Elliott and Gigginstown and in the absence of any runner for the champion trainer, Elliott has booked Ruby Walsh and they would look hard to oppose.

The Grade Three Fishery Lane Hurdle has attracted just four runners but a classy field with Koshari lining up in the colours of Rich Ricci. Joseph O'Brien's Slowmotion made a big impression at Fairyhouse and wasn't disgraced next time at Punchestown but her trainer is hopeful of a bold showing today.

"She has summered really well and we are excited to get her started.

"She is in very good form at home and I am hoping for a good run, but she should come on for the outing," he said.

Attract

Tomorrow at Navan Gordon Elliott saddles five in the Grade Lismullen Hurdle but it is Gavin Cromwell's Grade One winner Jer's Girl who will attract all the attention as she steps out of juvenile company for the first time.

With Barry Geraghty in Cheltenham, Mark Walsh comes in for the spare on the filly who is getting weight from all of her seven rivals.

Noel Meade's Le Martalin is on a hat-trick and is likely to jump off favourite for the For Auction Novice Hurdle but Gordon Elliott's Labaik is a fascinating runner.

The temperamental five-year-old has had his issues at the start of races but jumped off fine to win on his hurdling debut in good style and since bolted up in a charity race with Sheikh Fahad and can keep up his winning sequence.

Meanwhile, in a week that has seen Chris Hayes join the Tommy Stack team and Wayne Lordan link up with Ballydoyle for the season ahead, it will be interesting to see who will replace Paul Hanagan as first jockey to Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum following news of their split yesterday.

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