Mullins’ Leopardstown treble signals fine form for Festival

Willie Mullins served notice his string is firing on all cylinders for next week’s Cheltenham Festival by saddling a treble on the final day of Leopardstown’s jumps season.

Dual Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Al Boum Photo will lead an extremely powerful Cheltenham squad for the most successful trainer in Festival history – with the likes of Appreciate It, Chacun Pour Soi and Monkfish all carrying high expectations to the Cotswolds.

Mullins teamed up with champion jockey Paul Townend to win both divisions of the TRI Equestrian Maiden Hurdle at Leopardstown, with Grand Bornand (11-10) and Elite Charboniere (4-6) justifying favouritism in the colours of Rich and Susannah Ricci.

“Elite Charboniere got the job done and he jumped the last like he would prefer a fence,” said Mullins.

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“I think good ground is hugely beneficial to him, so he’ll keep going from now on.

“It’s the same with Grand Bornand, and we’ll probably target all the festivals with both of them.”

The Closutton handler’s hat-trick was completed by Eurotiep, who landed cramped odds of 1-6 under amateur rider Aubrey McMahon in the Connolly’s RED MILLS Irish EBF Auction Novice Hurdle.

Mullins added: “That’s great for Aubrey and the Down The Hatch Syndicate – that’s Aubrey’s third win on him, and they make a good team.

“Luke McMahon (rider’s father) put together the syndicate to buy this horse. He’ll go for the final of this race now at Punchestown. If there is something nice in between we might go for that, but the final is the big goal.

“He gallops and jumps – and he might be Aubrey’s first winner over fences next season.”

Gordon Elliott was narrowly denied a winner with his final runner before serving his suspension in the concluding TRI Equestrian Superstore & Cafe Flat Race.

Elliott, who will not send out any runners under his name for a minimum of six months because of the image of him sitting on a dead horse which emerged on social media, was represented by the Jamie Codd-ridden Top Bandit in the finale.

However, the 5-2 joint-favourite was ultimately unable to get the better of a thrilling duel with Oliver McKiernan’s 5-1 shot Meet And Greet – losing out by a nose.

McKiernan was completing a double following the earlier success of Fox Fearless (28-1) in the Adare Manor Opportunity Handicap Hurdle.

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