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quevega's feel for festival

While the insight gained from the after-racing gallops at Leopardstown is questioned in certain corners, the fixture continues to fill column inches ahead of the Cheltenham Festival nonetheless.

Willie Mullins was again the main focus of attention after racing but even he admitted that the exercise was probably "not very informative" and quipped "but at least you know they (Quevega and Fiveforthree) are still alive!"

The champion trainer has in recent seasons used the session to school and gallop some of his leading Cheltenham contenders, but this time round he used it to benefit his horses in a slightly different way.

"I'm very happy after that, but it was nothing more than a canter," he admitted. "They worked yesterday so it was more to come here for a day out as both Quevega and Fiveforthree haven't ran for a long time so we wanted to take the fizz out of them before they go to Cheltenham."

As the bumper was taking place, Mullins' quartet were walking around the pre-parade ring and after the winner of the last had been taken away to the vet, Mullins used the parade ring to get Quevega and Fiveforthree used to the pre-race preliminaries.

"We just got the wind out of their sails and hopefully that gets them over that edginess they can have when you don't run in a long time."

Quevega was ridden by Katie Walsh and David Casey was aboard Fiveforthree, with Ruby Walsh not required as "it wasn't a serious piece of work", and Paul Townend was getting a shoulder injury checked over and it will take further examination today.

Four-time Cheltenham Festival winner Quevega was held up by Walsh but finished well to lead home the blowout.

"She was enjoying herself and Katie just let her bowl along at the end. I think she is in good form and is probably one really good bit of work away before she goes to Cheltenham. She schooled last week and jumped well and I might give her one more pop this week."

Grey Fiveforthree has only raced 12 times in a career which began in 2007, but the 11-year-old is being primed for a return to the Cheltenham Festival which he won at in 2008 when beating Venalmar by a neck in what is now the Neptune Novice Hurdle.

"He has had leg trouble but came back from that before and won and then suffered something similar. He has a few nice bits of work done and although he is 11 in years, he has very little miles on the clock."

As for plans, Mullins said: "The lads that owned him said that we'd try and get him back and if we could that we would just try and get him for one more crack at Cheltenham. I was always intending on going for the World Hurdle but after seeing his weight in the Coral Cup 11st3lbs, you'd have to be tempted."

Dessie Hughes and Tony Martin also had notable Cheltenham entries at Leopardstown with Hughes declaring himself "very pleased" with his trio. Triumph Hurdle favourite Our Conor worked alongside Champion Bumper hopeful Posiden Sea, who is yet to run for Hughes, and novice hurdler Minsk.

"Posiden Sea goes well and Bryan said he was happy with him. He could run well but that bumper is a funny race. He won a bumper at Clonmel and ran well here behind Outlander to finish second," he said.

"Minsk seems well and seemed to love the better ground and Mark was happy with Our Conor, he said he was strong in himself and I couldn't be more pleased with him."

Tony Martin said: "I'm happy with mine. Golantilla goes for the bumper and I'm very happy with the stage he is at, without getting carried away. Blackmail is like a handicapper. He's ran in a point to point and three bumpers, he knows his job better than the rest of them and he's more forward. Barry (Geraghty) was happy with him.

"Benefficient cleared his lungs – it show's that he is fresh."


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