Mullins puts Zaidpour in Festival experiment


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The Independent Online

Having won seven of the 14 races staged in Ireland over the weekend, Willie Mullins gave his rivals some respite at Limerick yesterday. The champion trainer scratched one of only two declared runners, leaving the rest a clear run at six other prizes. Needless to say, Mullins duly won with the one that did line up, and he certainly looks as though he means business on a valuable card at Gowran Park today.

For a start, he saddles four contenders for the Goffs Thyestes Chase, a race which consecutively produced future Grand National winners in 2004 and 2005, namely Hedgehunter (himself trained by Mullins) and Numbersixvalverde. But perhaps his most fascinating runner at the meeting is Zaidpour, who tries three miles for the first time in the John Mulhern Galmoy Hurdle.

This event is run in memory of a cherished character on the Irish Turf. After a long illness, Mulhern died just before the 2010 Cheltenham Festival – where he had saddled Galmoy to win the Stayers' Hurdle in 1987 and 1988.

Galmoy's achievement has since been surpassed by Big Buck's, already odds-on to win the equivalent race, now the World Hurdle, for a fourth year running in March. But this afternoon's experiment opens the way for Zaidpour, whose season as a novice proved such an anti-climax over two miles, to introduce fresh blood to the division.

Having twice outclassed rivals in a lesser grade since his return, now Zaidpour faces his moment of truth against that hugely talented and reliable mare, Voler La Vedette – the unwitting focus of controversy, of course, when a malfunctioning software programme exposed a Betfair client to a potential payout of £600m when she won at the Leopardstown Christmas meeting.

For today's purposes, it is worth noting that the mare herself remains unexposed at three miles, and sets a formidable standard for Zaidpour. If he can beat the mare, he could suddenly look a legitimate danger to Big Buck's.

An interesting afternoon at various points of the compass also features the return to action of Tony McCoy at Warwick, and Presvis in Dubai. McCoy has missed nearly four weeks after breaking ribs and puncturing a lung in a fall at Taunton, and eases back sensibly with a ride in the bumper. Though still on course for a 17th consecutive championship with 174 winners, 61 clear of Richard Johnson, he has been obliged to abandon hope of breaching the 300 barrier.

The globe-trotting Presvis meanwhile returns to the scene of some of his most lucrative work for his first race since May. Last year he showed that he goes well fresh when producing that trademark burst from the rear to win the Dubai Duty Free Al Rashidiya Stakes, but his rivals this time round include Musir, an impressive recent scorer at the Carnival.

Turf Account

Chris McGrath's nap

Amroth Bay (1.55 Warwick)

Risks attached, having made errors at Doncaster last time before rallying for second – but is demonstrably equal to this kind of rating.


Next best

Godsmejudge (2.25 Warwick)

Scored in style at Huntingdon, and reckoned fairly treated by his stable in switching to handicaps.


One to watch

Finnegan Paddy (Tim Vaughan) Improved for longer trip when second at Catterick last week while promising better still.


Where the money's going

Some Target is 10-1 from 16-1 with Hills for today's Thyestes Chase at Gowran.