Djakadam kicks off bidding to score John Durkan hat-trick
To celebrate the countdown to Christmas, the Racing Post is giving away one piece of paid content free each day. Here, in his weekly column, Willie Mullins gives the lowdown on all his runners for a weekend of major action on course
Djakadam kicks off his campaign in the Grade 1 John Durkan Memorial Chase (2.05) and we are hoping he can win the prize for the third year in a row.
It's going to be a tough ask as it looks a strong renewal and he will be renewing rivalry with Sizing John, who had his measure on the two occasions they met last season, in the Cheltenham Gold Cup and then in the Punchestown Gold Cup in which they fought out a thrilling finish with our horse losing out by a short head.
Djakadam schooled well on Tuesday and we're happy to let him take his chance. As he's won the race twice we decided it would be a suitable place to start him off.
Shaneshill, who ran second in the Galway Plate during the summer – an effort the handicapper rated his best over fences –joins him in the six-runner line-up.
He has a bit to find with Sizing John and Djakadam at the weights and so it's difficult to make a strong case for him, but should one or both of the big two fail to run to form then he'll be there with a chance.
We're looking forward to Getabird making his debut over hurdles in the 2m4f maiden (1.00). He was a very smart performer in bumpers last season, winning his two starts before meeting with a setback. He's in good order and will love the ground. He's promised us plenty and has been going well and schooling well.
Saturnas, a Grade 1 winner as a novice hurdler last season, starts off over fences in the 2m beginners' chase (2.35). He hasn't run since running poorly in the Deloitte Hurdle at Leopardstown in February and, while we're hoping he runs well, he should benefit from the experience.
Low Sun, who scored on the Flat in France, won a maiden hurdle at Bellewstown in August on his first run for us. The ground was good on that occasion and, while conditions will be very different when he runs in the 2m novice hurdle (12.30), I think he will handle it.
Hollowgraphic ran a cracking race on his debut when second in the Goffs Land Rover Bumper at the festival meeting in April and that run should give him a big chance in the finale (3.40).
Sceaux ready for new campaign
Un De Sceaux, who had a fantastic campaign last season when he won three Grade 1s in a row, starts off his season at Cork, where my nephew David will ride him for the first time in the Grade 2 Kerry Group Hilly Way Chase (2.20).
He's fit and well and ready for action in a race we've done well in over the years, winning four of the last five runnings. The ratings indicate he has an excellent chance in what will be his first run over the course. The track, the ground and the extended two-mile trip should all suit.
Fabulous Saga and Minella Beau, who go in the 3m novice hurdle (1.50), have been running consistently. Fabulous Saga, who will have a tongue-tie on for the first time, is fit and well and goes on the ground, while Minella Beau is in good form but would probably prefer less-testing conditions.
Hot Beat has his first run for us and his first over hurdles in the 2m maiden (1.15). He scored on the Flat in Germany two years ago and won on the all-weather for David Simcock in January. A fine, big horse, he has schooled well and is ready to start. Whether the testing ground will really suit, we don't know. He's wearing a hood as he might be a bit keen.
Acapella has chance to make amends
We're dropping Acapella Bourgeois back half a mile in trip and putting the headgear back on. He's been hooded in the past but not last time. He loves testing ground and we're hoping he might make up for his Troytown lapse.
Polidam won over hurdles and fences in France but disappointed on his only start for us at the Punchestown festival iwhen he ran quite freely. We think he'll do better this season and he has the ability to make an impact off his handicap mark.
Scarpeta, who won three on the Flat for Mark Johnston, starts off over jumps in the 2m maiden hurdle (12.20). He's a nice type and on the evidence of his Flat form he should stay further than this trip, but Navan takes some getting and he should give a good account.
Invitation Only and Cap D'Aubois, both of whom disappointed on their most recent starts, go in the 2m4f beginners' chase (2.30). Invitation Only fell early on when making his chasing debut at Punchestown last month, so he probably deserves the benefit of the doubt.
Cap D'Aubois did not perform at all at Fairyhouse last time, having run Death Duty close on his first attempt over fences at Tipperary. We're not sure why he ran so poorly. Maybe it was the testing ground and we're going to find out more on that score here.
Taking it to the Max
Our travelling ambassador David Casey has been sending us good reports about Max Dynamite, who runs in the Group 1 Hong Kong Vase at Sha Tin on Sunday morning. The horse travelledto Hong Kong from Australia, where he ran third in the Melbourne Cup. David says he has been working very well.
Moment of the Week
Having tried to win the Hennessy Gold Cup and done so once, only to lose the race in controversial circumstances, to succeed in the Newbury race under its new title with Total Recall was very satisfying. It was a very good performance by the horse and Paul Townend and it put Total Recall in line for more big prizes later in the season. He won't be running over Christmas and we'll make a plan for him early in the new year. We'll certainly remember the first running of the Ladbrokes Trophy Chase.
Downer of the Week
It has to be Douvan missing his intended reappearance in the Tingle Creek at Sandown on Saturday. It's particularly frustrating as he had worked so well at the Curragh on Tuesday and appeared to be in super form. However, I wasn't 100 per cent happy with him on Thursday morning and if you've any doubts about a horse going to a Grade 1 then it's best if you don't go. He appeared fine on Friday morning and myself and our vet were happy with him. If all stays well with him, we'll be hoping to start him off over Christmas, probably in the Grade 1 Paddy's Rewards Club Chase at Leopardstown on December 27.
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