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mullins to let loose

While many trainers were awaiting rain and softened ground to unveil some of their stable stars for the season, few of them would have been looking forward to Willie Mullins unleashing his host of proven Grade One stars as well as his new unknown quantities.

But the trainer is set to do so this weekend.

Hurricane Fly is unquestionably the star of those leaving Closutton to go racing over the weekend, but he has a massive job to swing the balance back in his favour in the personal duel with Jessica Harrington's Jezki.

Although he'll love Punchestown and the conditions, the feature Morgiana Hurdle tomorrow could well be set to make the shorter journey back to Harrington's Kildare base.

That said, it would of course be no surprise if Hurricane Fly caused the slight upset but throughout today and tomorrow his trainer is all but certain to have a extremely good weekend.

The novice races over the weekend look to be where Mullins will enjoy most of his success.

Today he begins with two in the opening juvenile hurdle at 12pm, although it is Aidan O'Brien's Lone Star that is picked to score in that, but after that Clondaw Court can claim the Punchestown Annual Membership Hurdle and exciting novice chase recruit Valseur Lido could make a winning start over fences in the Gain Support Laois GAA Beginners Chase.

The champion trainer has been busy shopping over the summer months and his recruits from France are sure to prove difficult to assess for both punters and bookmakers and River Run is an example of that in the www.punchestown.com For Offers Maiden Hurdle and while it's hard to either back or back against him, Mouse Morris' Alpha Des Obeaux did enough on debut to suggest he could win this time around.

Point-to-point winner Master Of Verse makes his first start for Mullins on the track and is sure to be odds on for the concluding bumper on the card to potentially give Gigginstown a treble as they also own the aforementioned Alpha Des Obeaux and Valseur Lido.

Indeed, the Gigginstown team themselves will be looking forward to tomorrow's 2m6f maiden hurdle at Punchestown as the highly touted No More Heroes begins his season over hurdles and there will be many disappointed if he doesn't win for Bryan Cooper and Gordon Elliott. Although Indevan is going to be the likely favourite in the Grade Two Dobbins Outdoor Catering Florida Pearl Novice Chase, Cooper could be on the right one here as he rides Noel Meade's Very Wood, who, despite being more workmanlike than expected at Galway, could improve enough to take this Graded contest.

It would be a massive surprise if the other Graded novice chase didn't go to Mullins, though, as Alelchi Inois looks to extend his impressive winning sequence to six. While the ground is far from ideal for him, he did win a couple of hurdle races on soft ground, so don't let his recent winning form on quick ground turn you off.

Paul Townend has enjoyed a fine time deputising for Ruby Walsh at any given opportunity and he'll be at his local track in Cork tomorrow where Black Hercules is the pick for Willie Mullins and Sempre Medici makes his Irish debut in the first race, while Townend could also team up with Terence O'Brien to win the beginners chase on Captain Canada , who had a nice run behind Very Wood at Galway.