Smaller trainers out to shine on the grandest stage in Irish racing
It may be billed as a star-studded meeting, the like of which has earned the plaudits from many of the key stakeholders in the industry, but everybody is welcome at Irish Champions Weekend and a number of smaller trainers will be bidding to claim a scalp or two across both days.
Madeleine Tylicki, who trains just ten horses from her Newbridge base in County Kildare, expects bookmakers will overlook Sirjack Thomas when pricing up this year's Group 3 Willis Towers Watson Champions Juvenile Stakes at Leopardstown but advised punters to ignore her charge at their peril.
She said: "We think a lot of Sirjack Thomas and he's our stable star. Training is hard work but having a runner on Irish Champions Weekend makes it worthwhile. This is what we do it for really and having runners that have a chance on the big stage is where we want to be.
A winner at the fourth attempt in a heavy ground Roscommon maiden, Tylicki admits she would welcome any rain between now and race time.
She added: "He has shown his form on testing ground and while he will be fine on good to yielding going, I think he would have no problem if the ground turned soft. He's probably up against it on paper but we think he is very good and hopefully he can run well."
Mullins bids to be in the money with Green
Emmet Mullins, the grandson of the late, legendary Paddy Mullins, and son of George, who runs an equine transportation company, decided at 25 that training was the avenue in which he wanted to explore.
The former Cheltenham Festival-winning rider, successful aboard Sir Des Champs in the 2011 Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle for his uncle Willie Mullins, proved that the apple did not fall far from the tree when his first runner, St Stephens Green, won a Kilbeggan bumper back in 2015.
The gelding has since proved a star for the young handler, winning five races, and Mullins will be hoping that he can make his presence felt in the 'Petingo' Handicap at Leopardastown on Saturday.
He said: "St Stephens Green is in great order and I think there is race in him off his current mark on the Flat. Whether that is at Leopardstown or not, I don't know, but I think he can run well.
"We won't be getting ahead of ourselves or anything like that, as it is a very competitive race, but we think he can go well."
Mullins will also be represented in the opening fillies' maiden at Leopardstown with Liberty Lass, and said of her chance: "She's a filly that I bought at Keeneland and I think a bit of her. It's always a competitive maiden but I'm hopeful that she can show up well and start her career off on a positive note."
Bunyan hoping to Hit the target
While much of the pre-race chat for the Group 2 Flying Five Stakes at the Curragh revolves around Caravaggio, Darren Bunyan insists his stable star Hit The Bid should not be underestimated.
The trainer, who is praying the rain stays away, said: "It's just brilliant to be competing on weekends like this – it's why you get up in the mornings to train them. Every day you go to the sales you're dreaming of buying a horse like this lad – he's a dream horse.
"If it's anything near good ground on Sunday, we'd be confident of a very big run, but should it come up softer than yielding we won't ask him to go on it."