Mullins assembles squad ahead of Auteuil assault
Willie Mullins has embraced the end-of-season French mission with horses like Quevega, Hurricane Fly, Thousand Stars and most recently Un De Sceaux, and Ireland’s champion trainer is readying another strong squad for battle at Auteuil on Saturday, headed by Prix La Barka hope Shaneshill.
Mullins said: “We've always targeted France at the end of the season with some of our horses and will be doing so again this year. We'll take as many runners as possible and hopefully we will have a strong squad going over.
“At the moment Shaneshill looks like our main one for the Prix La Barka. The trip might be a little bit short for him but he’s very well and the plan will be to come back for the French Champion Hurdle over a trip that will definitely suit.
“I also have Arctic Fire in the race but I'm not keen to travel with him. I think I might keep him to the Flat for the summer.”
Mullins continued: “Open Eagle did very well at Punchestown when he won a valuable handicap hurdle in good style. On that run he'd be deserving of his place in the line-up.
“He’s owned by the Supreme Racing Syndicate, who also have Airlie Beach in the race and she brings Grade 1 form to the table. She stayed on nicely to take second behind Apple’s Jade at Punchestown and that form looks quite good.”
“Bapaume came good for us at Punchestown in the Grade 1 juvenile hurdle and looks a probable runner again on Saturday," said Mullins.
"Dandy Mag is likely to join him but we have a decision to make on Meri Devie – she also has an entry in the Prix D'Arles.
“We have Pravalaguna in that race as well so we'll see closer to the time before making a decision.”
Un De Sceaux, winner of the Prix La Barka 12 months ago, will not be making the trip to France this year and has instead been sent on his summer holidays.
One of the big talking horses of last season before setting foot on an Irish racecourse was Senewalk, who hasn’t been seen since finishing a tame sixth in a maiden hurdle at Punchestown in November.
The Walk In The Park gelding is an intended runner at Punchestown on Wednesday and Mullins is hopeful the one-time Supreme Novices’ Hurdle favourite can get his career back on track.
“Senewalk is back in and doing things well," he said. "He didn’t have much of a season last year so we'll try and make up for some lost time. I imagine that we'll keep him going over the summer months.”