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Mourad fronts up Mullins team

Mourad who finished third in the Cheltenham Triumph Hurdle last season will be among the Willie Mullins challengers at Down Royal on Wednesday.

Mullins said that Mourad who will be riden by Ruby Walsh will run in the Wetherbys Racecard Hurlde as part of the horse’s preparation for the World Hurlde at the Festival next month.

Last time out, Mourad won at Punchstown in impressive style.

Mullins also has Cousin Vinny in action in the Northern Ireland Hotel Federation Beginners’ Chase.

Mullins added, “I’m hoping for a big run from this pair who are part of a large entry I have for Down Royal.”

Meanwhile, Big Zeb made a return to his best form at Punchestown yesterday to secure a return ticket to Cheltenham for the Queen Mother Champion Chase, much to the delight and relief of his trainer Colm Murphy.

The Gorey handler and local owner Pat Redmond were very happy to see the Oscar gelding turning in a power-packed display under regular partner Barry Geraghty to quicken away from odds-on Golden Silver.

A casualty two out in the Tied Cottage Chase at the Kildare venue a year ago, Big Zeb made amends as he took charge at the fourth last from Mansony which had been the beneficiary of his tumble that day.

Jumping to his left into the back straight and losing valuable momentum as a consequence, Golden Silver nevertheless became competitive for Ruby Walsh heading to the straight until the winner asserted from two out.

“It's on to Cheltenham again now. He came here fresh and well after his break since Sandown as he's had little problems,” said Murphy, whose runners had generally been out of luck for a while.

Colm revealed that his stable star was found to be suffering from what in human terms would correspond to an arthritic condition when he disappointed badly behind Twist Magic in the Tingle Creek Chase.

“We found he had an active ring bone in his off-fore which obviously didn't help at Sandown and he may be a spring horse,” said the trainer, who later intends to bring the horse back to Punchestown for the Kerrygold Champion Chase in which he failed by a head to Master Minded last April.

That Paul Nicholls inmate is trading as the 7/4 ante-post favourite at the moment with William Hill to complete a hat-trick in the Queen Mother event for which Biz Zeb was cut to 7/1 from 10/1 by that firm.

The other Grade Two event of the fixture was the novice hurdle commemorating former Queen Mother hero Moscow Flyer and Saludos was all the rage to score on behalf of that legendary performer's trainer Jessica Harrington.

While Saludos managed to decisively turn around Leopardstown placings with top weight Hollo Ladies, the favourite was unable to match strides throughout the closing stages with ‘Shark' Hanlon's stable star Luska Lad.

And it transpired that the 7/2 victor is rather more effective on a right-hand track than going the other way, as at Naas recently where he gave Andrew McNamara a heavy fall that sidelined the Limerick rider for a week.

“He's definitely much better running this way so we'll probably miss out on Cheltenham. There's plenty of prize money to be won in this country and it makes sense to keep him at home for the festivals at Fairyhouse and here,” Hanlon said.

Meanwhile, officials at Folkestone are optimistic about their chances of racing tomorrow despite calling a precautionary inspection at 7.30am.

The forecast is for the temperate to rise overnight.

Belfast Telegraph

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