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Parlour Games threat to Willie Mullins hopes at Cheltenham Festival

By Martin Kelly

Parlour Games is one of the star names among 109 entries for the Willie Mullins-dominated Neptune Investment Novices Hurdle on March 11 at the Cheltenham Festival.

The seven-year-old won a Grade Two event of the same name at Prestbury Park in November and followed up in the Challow Hurdle at Newbury over Christmas.

John Ferguson's charge appears the chief British contender for the two-mile-five-furlong Neptune, for which Mullins is responsible for 24 of the 44 Irish-trained horses engaged.

Supreme Novices Hurdle favourite Douvan, top-class bumper performer Shaneshill, and the Gigginstown House Stud-owned pair of Outlander and McKinley feature in the list for the County Carlow handler.

Nicky Henderson is responsible for nine entries, including dual Grade Two scorer Vyta Du Roc and Kilcrea Vale, who powered to a 26-length victory on his hurdling debut at Market Rasen on January 15.

Other contenders include last weekend's Cheltenham winner Ordo Ab Chao, trained by Alan King, and the Harry Fry-trained, JP McManus-owned Jollyallan.

Meanwhile, Jonathan Burke is set to be in action at Fairyhouse tomorrow after receiving the all-clear from precautionary X-rays following an afternoon in the wars at Thurles yesterday.

Burke, the retained rider for leading owners Alan and Ann Potts, was partnering Blodge for his father-trainer Liam in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares Beginners Chase when she was one of four horses to come to grief at the first fence. He rode in the next race, the thurles.ie Maiden Hurdle, but was unseated from Le Feu Garde.

The jockey's agent Garry Cribbin said: "It's never nice, he had the first fall and then got a kicking from a horse in the second.

"But everything is perfect from the X-rays, just soft tissue damage and he has the all-clear. He'll be riding at Fairyhouse."

Salsify, winner of the Foxhunter Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in 2012 and 2013 but out for more than a year after knocking a joint at Down Royal on Boxing Day 2013, could be back for a third crack at the race in March.

Salsify will return in the Raymond Smith Memorial Chase at Leopardstown on Sunday week.

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