Willie Mullins: trainer has won Prix de Longchamp in successive seasonsPICTURE: Patrick McCann (racingpost.com/photos)
Loch Ard heads Mullins trio for Auteuil Group 3
Preview: France, Sunday 4.55pm BST
Auteuil: Prix de Longchamp (Group 3 hurdle) 2m3½f, 4yo
WILLIE MULLINS launches a three-pronged attack on a race he won in successive renewals courtesy of J'Y Vole (2007) and Hurricane Fly (2008).
If jockey bookings are any guide then wide-margin Punchestown winner Loch Ard (Ruby Walsh) is expected to be the pick of the trio.
"Ruby has chosen to ride Loch Ard and while his form might not entitle him to be the best of ours, I think soft ground is the key to him," said Mullins. "Darroun might not appreciate it as much, but I'm interested to see how he handles Auteuil."
Darroun (Paul Townend) was fourth behind Hisaabaat in the AES 4YO Champion Hurdle at the Kildare track and is one of two runners for Rich and Susannah Ricci.
The second is Gorgeous Sixty (Katie Walsh), who has yet to hit the target in five starts for Mullins but was more than useful form round Auteuil last autumn when trained by Yannick Fouin.
While horses can develop rapidly at this age it is worth noting that Gorgeous Sixty beat Chegei Has (Jean-Paul Gallorini/Gaetan Masure) by ten lengths on her last start for Fouin.
The home defence is headed by Esmondo (Guillaume Macaire/Bertrand Lestrade), whose efforts in previous group races have landed him with top weight.
Also on Sunday
Auteuil: Prix Ferdinand Dufaure (Group 1 chase) 2m5½f, 4yo (4.20pm BST)
SAINT PALOIS (Jacques Ortet/David Cottin) puts his unbeaten record over fences on the line against 14 rivals, no fewer than 11 of whom the champion-elect has already beaten.
The sequence almost came to an end when De Vous A Moi (David Berra) ran Saint Palois to half a length in the Prix Jean Stern three weeks ago.
However Ortet's charge was giving 6lb away on that occasion, and the Pau handler couldn't be happier with how things have gone since.
"He's recovered very well and although he had a hard race he's very well," saidOrtet. "The ground won't bother him either way, if the rain comes he handles heavy."