Yorkhill has reportedly come out of Cheltenham well following his win in the JLT and he will now tackle the Ryanair Gold Cup on Sunday
YORKHILL puts his unbeaten record over fences on the line in the Ryanair Gold Cup at Fairyhouse.
Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh have made no secret of the regard in which they hold the seven-year-old and he came up with the goods to win at the Cheltenham Festival for the second year in succession in last month’s JLT Novices’ Chase.
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He is a red-hot favourite to see off six rivals in the Grade 1 feature on Easter Sunday as Mullins bids to make inroads in Gordon Elliott’s lead in the race to be crowned this season’s champion National Hunt trainer in Ireland.
Patrick Mullins, assistant to his father, said: “Yorkhill has been good since Cheltenham and we’ve never won this race before, so it would be nice to do it.
“He won his beginners’ chase here, so the track and the trip and the ground won’t be a problem and we’re obviously very hopeful.”
The master of Closutton currently trails Elliott by over 350,000 euros ahead of what could be a pivotal Easter weekend.
With Elliott fielding 10 of the 30 runners in Monday’s Irish Grand National, Mullins admits the team are up against it as they bid to retain the title.
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“The Easter racing is always big in Ireland and we need a lot of things to go right,” said Mullins junior.
“If it happens it happens and if it doesn’t it doesn’t.
“We obviously need to make ground and not lose ground and we probably can’t afford to stand still.
“With Gordon having a third of the field in the Irish Grand National it will make it tough, but we’ll see what happens.”
Walsh is excited to be reunited with Yorkhill, even if he admits the return to a right-handed track is not ideal for a horse who has a tendency to edge left at his fences.
“The two and a half miles looks a natural progression for Yorkhill as if we waited for Punchestown, it’s two or three miles. Having won over this trip it looks obvious,” the jockey told Racing UK.
“He’s only had three runs this season. He’s fresh and well and David Casey is very happy with him.
“Unfortunately he’s going to have to go right-handed, which is a slight drawback for him but I thought he jumped straight at Cheltenham so he should be able to cope.
“I just think he’s a very good horse, he’s not flashy, he just does what he has to do. He pulled himself up on the run-in but went again when Top Notch came to him.
“He’s very exciting. He’s got a huge engine.”
Ryanair supremo Michael O’Leary’s Gigginstown House Stud is represented by the Gordon Elliott-trained Ball D’Arc, Henry de Bromhead’s Attribution and Noel Meade’s Cheltenham hero Road To Respect .
Road To Respect won the Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate at Prestbury Park, but Meade is under no illusions about the task facing his charge this weekend.
“He came out of Cheltenham very well and we’ve been happy with him since,” said the Tu Va handler.
“We debated whether we should run in the (Irish) National with Yorkhill being in this, but we decided we’d stick to novices.
“Yorkhill is a hell of horse and will be very hard to beat, but we’ll give it a go.”
De Bromhead also saddles Some Plan, while Tony Martin’s Anibale Fly and Baily Cloud from Mouse Morris’ yard complete the line-up.