Willie Mullins eyes a double in Galway extravaganza at Ballinrobe
Willie Mullins continues his build-up to next week's Galway extravaganza at Ballinrobe, where he should leave tonight with at least one winner to his name.
The champion trainer teams up with Ruby Walsh for Darroun's bid to land the McHale Engineering Hurdle over two and a half miles.
The son of Dalakhani looked a horse going places when he beat Hisaabaat in a 25-runner juvenile hurdle in January of last year, but it has been all steadily downhill since that victory.
Walsh's mount had only one outing in the most recent jumps campaign – being pulled up behind Prince Rudi in a Leopardstown handicap hurdle – and there was nothing to suggest that a return to his best is imminent in an outing on the Flat last month.
However, the five-year-old grey is extremely well treated by the race conditions and though Kieran Purcell's Top Cat Henry looks a progressive individual, Darroun should make the most of this excellent opportunity.
Mullins and Walsh also have decent prospects of taking the Mayo News Maiden Hurdle with the lightly-raced Mr Groocock.
This eight-year-old was travelling nicely when brought down a mile from home in a Wexford maiden, although it was too early to say that he would have taken a hand in the finish.
The Closutton supremo also runs Punchestown bumper winner Well Read Man, but David Casey's mount is making his first appearance since his debut success in May of last year, and a safer option may be Spot Fine.
Admittedly, the Mouse Morris-trained eight-year-old has had plenty of chances, but his form-lines – which include a close third to last week's Killarney winner Shamar at Cork – stand up to the closest scrutiny to earn him the selection.
The action starts with a maiden hurdle for four-year-olds and it's hard to ignore the claims of smart Flat performer Macbeth.
On a tricky eight-race spread, there are four handicap hurdles down for decision and all of them should carry government health warnings for punters' pockets.
A tentative vote goes to previous course and distance winner Oscar Wings in the two-mile version, while the booking of Walsh for Michael Hourigan's Craigs Dream catches the eye in the second division of the Ballinrobe Golf Club Handicap Hurdle.