Albert Bartlett winner Monkfish embarks on chasing career for red-hot Mullins
Willie Mullins has sent out 17 winners in the last 14 days. Seven of those have been with horses having their first start over fences and there will be a few long faces if Monkfish does not become number eight in the Jim Ryan Racecourse Services Beginners Chase (11.30) at Fairyhouse.
This race was the springboard for Sir Des Champs' chasing career in 2011, while Mount Benbulben won it in 2012, The Storyteller in 2017 and Carefully Selected last year. It can often throw up a star.
Monkfish is already ante-post favourite for what used to be called the RSA Chase despite having never jumped a fence in public, but the form of his Albert Bartlett win has already been boosted three times this season by the victories of Thyme Hill, Fury Road and Latest Exhibition.
That Albert Bartlett was one of the races of the festival in March and Monkfish was very brave in digging out a neck victory. The consensus seems to be that he will be even better over fences.
Mullins said: "Monkfish is great. I think his point-to-point experience will be a big help now that he goes over fences and I'm looking forward to getting him started."
The champion trainer also holds the key to the Grade 2 Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares Hurdle (1.01) where he unleashes Concertista.
The six-year-old daughter of Nathaniel was one of the most impressive winners of the Cheltenham Festival when taking the mares' novice hurdle by 12 lengths. She is now rated 148 so should take some stopping.
Mullins said: "Concertista is in good form. The race conditions are in her favour so that's why we've decided to come here with her. She's never won over this far before, but we never thought this sort of trip would be a problem to her so we're hoping for the best."
Concertista's biggest threat could come from last season's Champion Bumper third Queens Brook, who was narrowly beaten on her most recent outing at Down Royal.
Gordon Elliott thinks this ground will be more to her liking, but is fearful of Concertista.
"Queens Brook in good form and we're looking forward to running her. Willie's mare looks a cut above the rest but hopefully she can run well," Elliott said.
"The ground was as quick as she'd want in Down Royal and she probably got sucked into the race a little earlier than ideal. I think we'll see a different mare over two and a half miles."
The Henry de Bromhead-trained Minella Melody should not be underestimated either. Don't forget she started favourite for the race Concertista won at Cheltenham, but folded very tamely up the home straight and was beaten 50 lengths. She is much better than the bare form of that as her official rating of 140 tells you.
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