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Mikael ready to roll

The after-racing gallops at Leopardstown failed to ignite similar interest to other years as only a small handful of Cheltenham-bound horses went through their paces in Foxrock yesterday.

Willie Mullins usually brings an army to work, but despite being reportedly set to bring between 13 and 17, the champion trainer only arrived with four of his string, including the most high profile horse on show, Mikael D'Haguenet.

Yesterday was also the first time we saw Ruby Walsh riding on a racecourse since his horrific fall at Down Royal in November as he was onboard Mikael D'Haguenet as the pair schooled around with three other stable companions.

Katie Walsh partnered Pomme Tiepy, who jumped well in first time blinkers, while Paul Townend was on Quel Esprit, who could be set for the four-mile chase at next month's Festival. Patrick Mullins rode Some Target, who also has the four-mile chase for amateur riders as a potential target.

Mullins has so far made 88 entries for the Festival, not including the likes of the Champion Bumper which isn't closed yet and he has 40 different horses holding a Cheltenham entry.

"I actually frightened myself when I looked at all the entries I had the other day!" he said. "I will have around 25 runners, I would say, at least."

Of those four that were at Leopardstown, Mullins added: "All riders were happy, and the four horses went a good clip down the back.


"Ruby was happy with Mikael, Paul was especially happy with Quel Esprit, Katie was happy with Pomme Tiepy in the blinkers for the first time and Patrick was happy with Some Target.

"Mikael will go for the RSA Chase as it stands at the minute but I have no riding plans for anything at the moment.

"The four-miler is a big option for Quel Esprit on his run here the last day. At the moment my plans remain the same as before, unless something happens, and Zaidpour will go for the Supreme Novices if I can get him right and So Young for the Neptune."

Meanwhile, Eddie Harty's Captain Cee Bee wasn't at Leopardstown but the trainer did report his stable star to be well. Harty said: "Captain Cee Bee is in very good form and he worked on Saturday morning and seems to be fine. We are just hoping for good ground for him now."

A horse unlikely to take the journey across is impressive bumper winner Waaheb, despite the fact the four-year-old gave a stone away to his nearest rival Jenari, a nice debutant from the Jessica Harrington yard.

Winning trainer Dermot Weld said: "I thought it was a very good performance to give that weight away to what I would think is a very nice horse in second so I'm very pleased.

"We will think about it but I would say he is unlikely to go to Cheltenham this year. He jumps like a stag and I would say he could have a huge future over jumps."

Bookmakers Paddy Power will be hoping for a big upset on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival again this year as they announced yesterday they would refund all losing win bets or the win part of each way bets if Cue Card wins the opening Supreme Novices Hurdle.

The offer applies to all losing win and win part of each-way singles placed from 10am yesterday morning with a maximum refund of €200 per customer.