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Elliott v Mullins – again: powerful pair have private battle in Ryanair Gold Cup

Invitation Only: one of five runners for Mullins
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4.30 Fairyhouse
Ryanair Gold Cup Novice Chase | Grade 1 | 2m4f | 5yo+ | ATR

It’s something of a rarity that just two trainers, even masters of their craft like Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott, are responsible for all the runners in a top-level race, yet they provide all nine in the Ryanair Gold Cup.

Remarkably, it is not even the first time this has happened this season. It was today’s sponsors Ryanair, coincidentally, whose Grade 1 hurdle at Christmas saw Gordon Elliott’s Mick Jazz lead home Cilaos Emery in a race in which no other handler had a runner.

That’s not to say that either man has had a stranglehold on this race down through the years. Far from it in fact.

Mullins is yet to notch a single victory in this 2m4f contest, but came agonisingly close to ending his hoodoo 12 months ago with Yorkhill, who went down by just a neck to Road To Respect despite not being on his best behaviour for much of the race.

The Mullins name is etched into this race's history, however, with the champion trainer's father, the late great Paddy Mullins, winning the 1966 renewal with Vulpine.

In his bid to break his duck Mullins will be represented by five of the nine runners, two of which – Al Boum Photo and Invitation Only – ran at Cheltenham.

Speaking about his squad, headed by RSA Chase casualty Al Boum Photo, Mullins said: "He's coming back in trip following his fall in the RSA Chase and if he puts in a clear round he’ll have a big chance. He’ll like the ground."

Al Boum Photo: looked sure to place in the RSA Chase before he fell

He added on Invitation Only, Montalbano, Saturnas and Up For Review: “Things didn’t work out for Invitation Only at Cheltenham, where he slipped badly on landing four out in the JLT Chase. It brought him to a halt and put paid to his chance. His previous form was good and with better luck this time he’ll be a serious player.

“Montalbano was going well when he blundered and unseated at the second-last at Thurles last time. If he tidies up his jumping he can give a good account.

“Saturnas, who is a course winner, is probably the one of our runners open to most improvement, while Up For Review, who was on the sidelines for a long time, won well at Gowran Park on his second start back and we decided to step him up in class in this race. He’ll like the ground.”

Shattered Love leads Team Elliott

Elliott, on the other hand, has registered a win courtesy of Realt Mor back in 2013 and he looks to be strongly represented in his attempt to land a second, with JLT Novices' Chase winner Shattered Love spearheading his four-pronged attack.

Shattered Love (left): the brilliant JLT Novices' Chase winner is set to return at Down Royal next month

Speaking about the talented Gigginstown-owned mare, Elliott said: "She was very good at Cheltenham and she’s been very good since, so we’re hoping she can go well.”

On The Storyteller, Tycoon Prince and Tombstone, he added: “It looks as though Tycoon Prince and Tombstone are up against it in terms of winning the race, but if they could pick up a bit of prize money we’d be delighted.

“The Storyteller has a good chance. He jumped well at Cheltenham and he’s a good horse on his day, so we’re hopeful of a good run from him as well.”

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His previous form was good and with better luck this time he’ll be a serious player
E.W. Terms
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