Mullins takes aim at Elliott with four going out to dance
Irish Stallion Farms European Breeders Fund Mares Novice Hurdle Championship Final (Grade 1) | 2m4f | 4yo+ | ATR
Let's Dance came up trumps when asked to deliver by Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh in the mares' novice hurdle at Cheltenham, demonstrating a seriously impressive turn of foot, and this afternoon the Rich Ricci-owned mare leads the champion trainer's challenge in this €100,000 Grade 1 contest.
Given Mullins' strength in depth in this division in recent times, it may come as somewhat of a surprise he has won 'only' two of the past 13 renewals – Annie Power in 2013 and Adriana Des Mottes in 2014.
However, no doubt conscious of the magnitude of the task of catching Elliott, this is arguably the reigning champion trainer’s strongest hand, with Airlie Beach, Augusta Kate and Good Thyne Tara backing up Let's Dance.
Mullins said: “Let's Dance looks the pick of ours. She was very good at Cheltenham when winning the Grade 2 mares' novice hurdle and she came out of the race well. We're hoping for a similar type of performance.
"She's unbeaten this season and has been improving all the time. Her last two wins were on good ground, so the drying conditions should be fine for her."
He continued: "Airlie Beach was a bit disappointing behind Let's Dance at Cheltenham. That was her only defeat so far, and back at the track where she won the Grade 1 Royal Bond Hurdle in December we're hoping she'll return to form. She's shown two and a half miles is well within her capabilities.
"Augusta Kate didn't jump well enough at Cheltenham when sixth in the Albert Bartlett. She made a bad mistake at a crucial stage and that put her on the back foot. Back against mares here and dropping down half a mile in trip, I wouldn't rule her out of calculations."
He added: "Good Thyne Tara won by ten lengths on her hurdling debut at Clonmel in February, but this represents a huge step up in class on only her second start over hurdles and we'll be delighted if she could earn some black type."
Elliott, on the other hand, bids to kick on again and gain valuable momentum in advance of saddling a third of the field in tomorrow's €500,000 BoyleSports Irish Grand National.
Of his two Gigginstown-owned mares, he said: "Both Barra and Shattered Love are in great shape but Let’s Dance is going to be hard enough to beat. I'm looking forward to running both of them and on their day I think they'd have a big chance.
“We found Shattered Love was in season after her run in the Neptune. That may explain her disappointing performance at Cheltenham, so you can put a line through that.”
Fergal O'Brien makes the trip across the Irish Sea with the admirable Colin's Sister, who is unbeaten in four starts this season.
“She travelled over well and had a canter on the track this morning," the trainer said on Saturday."
“The ground's on the easy side of good which will suit her and she seems fine at home. There are no signs the season is catching up with her so fingers crossed she'll run well.”