Saint Roi puts Champion Hurdle claims on the line at Punchestown

Saint Roi bids to show he is a true Champion Hurdle contender when he steps up to Grade One company for the first time at Punchestown on Sunday.

The five-year-old only made his debut for trainer Willie Mullins in December on his move from France, yet has shot through the ranks on his last three starts.

Saint Roi looked destined for the top when winning the 24-runner County Handicap Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March, and he had no trouble landing the odds on his return in a Grade Three contest at Tipperary last month.

He has been handed the task of giving Mullins a 10th consecutive win in the Unibet Morgiana Hurdle, with just four rivals standing in his way.

Willie Mullins has saddled the winner of the Morgiana Hurdle for the last nine years
Willie Mullins has saddled the winner of the Morgiana Hurdle for the last nine years (Simon Cooper/PA)

Mullins said: “He came out of the race in Tipperary well. I’m very happy with him coming here.

“It’s a big step up in class, but he’s going to have to do it some day.”

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Frank Berry, racing manager to owner JP McManus, said: “It’s a competitive-looking race. Willie seems to be very happy with him and we’re hoping he runs well.

“We’ll know a lot more about him after Sunday. He won nicely the last day when the race conditions suited him well. We’re happy with him for Sunday and we’ll take it from there.”

Abacadabras, who was second in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham, represents Gordon Elliott.

Jessica Harrington runs stable stalwart Supasundae with Coeur Sublime and Jason The Militant completing the quintet.

Latest Exhibition attempts to build on his debut success over fences in the Liam And Valerie Florida Pearl Novice Chase.

Runner-up in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham, the Paul Nolan-trained seven-year-old got off the mark over the bigger obstacles over this course and distance last month.

Nolan said: “All is good. He’s in good form and he’s been doing his routine stuff at home.

“I hope he puts in a clear round and gives a good account of himself.

“He seems very well. He’s uncomplicated and hopefully he’ll run well.”

Among his rivals are the Tom Mullins’ mare Court Maid, winner of both her starts over fences, and the Elliott-trained pair Pencilfulloflead and Run Wild Fred.

Elimay goes for a fifth successive win in the Frontline Security Grabel (Mares) Hurdle.

Her last two victories over fences, but connections of the Mullins-trained six-year-old have opted to start this season off over the small obstacles.

Elimay switches back to hurdling at Punchestown
Elimay switches back to hurdling at Punchestown (Brian Lawless/PA)

“It’s nice to get her back started. She’s back over hurdles and she’ll be returning to fences later on,” said Berry.

“Willie says she’s well. It’s a nice starting point to get her back out there on a good track.”

Mullins also saddles Buildmeupbuttercup while Harrington’s 2019 Grand National runner-up Magic Of Light is set to take her chance after being a late withdrawal over fences at Clonmel on Thursday.

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