Cilaos Emery tries two and a half miles for the first time as the Willie Mullins-trained gelding makes his seasonal debut in the Clonmel Oil Chase at the County Tipperary course on Thursday.
The eight-year-old was fourth on his only previous attempt at the trip in the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle in 2017 behind Apples Jade, but has stuck to around two miles under both since codes since then.
Cilaos Emery fell on his last race over fences at Leopardstown in February, after which connections put him back over the smaller obstacles. Following success in the Red Mills Trial Hurdle at Gowran, Cilaos Emery was supplemented for the Champion Hurdle, finishing fourth to Epatante.
“When he fell on his prep run for the Champion Chase, owner Luke McMahon took the decision that the Champion Hurdle looked wide open and chanced that,” said Patrick Mullins, assistant to his father.
“I think they got their money back for finishing fourth, but we are keen to go back over fences again.
“Ruby (Walsh) felt going up to two and a half miles might help him. He had been a very keen horse in his younger days, but he seems to settle much better now so we’re hoping that two and a half won’t pose any problem.
“We’re expecting a big run.”
The Closutton yard is also represented by Bachasson in a bid to win the race for a sixth time since 2013.
Mullins junior said: “He was in great form last season. He won on the last day before lockdown in Clonmel.
“I rode him in the Coral Cup where he ran a very good race. We dropped out in a pace which was slow. He finished sixth, but he could have finished closer on a different day.
“He’s a high-class horse as well so it would be no surprise if he caused an upset.”
Kemboy, who won this race in 2018, was withdrawn at the 48-hour final declaration stage.
The three-time Grade One winner could reappear later this month ahead of his main early-season objective, the Savills Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas.
“All is well with him. There are a few other races coming up in the next fortnight he could go for, but all is good with him. Willie has a few different races in mind,” said Mullins.
“We’ll aim everything at Christmas, but it would be great to get a run in beforehand.”
Of the four horses that take on the Mullins pair, Gordon Elliot’s Alpha Des Obeaux and the Joseph O’Brien-trained Mortal are owned by Gigginstown House Stud. Noel Meade’s Snow Falcon and Henry de Bromhead’s Paloma Blue complete the sextet.
Elliott’s Shattered Love, wearing the Gigginstown colours, attempts to repeat last year’s victory in the T.A. Morris Memorial Irish EBF Mares Chase.
The five runners include Jessica Harrington’s Magic Of Light, runner-up in the 2019 Randox Health Grand National.
The Mullins stable is represented by Cabaret Queen, fresh from her last-gasp victory in the Kerry National at Listowel.
“She’s been in great form since her win at Listowel,” said Mullins.
“Obviously on ratings she needs to improve a little bit again, but it’s a very competitive race. Hopefully she has the advantage of being hard fit on her side. Maybe that will bring things in her favour.”