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Abacadabras weaves Morgiana magic

Abacadabras denied Willie Mullins a 10th successive win in the Unibet Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown as he beat Saint Roi by a neck in a thrilling finish.

Narrowly denied in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in March, Abacadabras was beaten on his return to action at Down Royal while County Hurdle winner Saint Roi had cruised to victory at Tipperary last month.

Sent off the 10-11 favourite, Saint Roi appeared to be going as well as anything turning into the straight, but Mark Walsh was soon struggling for racing room.

Coeur Sublime briefly threatened to break away, only to be reeled in by Jason The Militant before the Gordon Elliott-trained Abacadabras (13-8) hit the front under Jack Kennedy.

Saint Roi got going after the last and was closing all the time, but as Walsh forced his way between the eventual winner and Jason The Militant, the line came too soon with Abadcadabras holding on.

Elliott said: “I definitely knew he’d improve from Down Royal, where he took a blow after the second last. He came forward from the run and he needed to in a race like that.

“It was a good performance and he’d be better suited by a strongly-run race on better ground and produced later. Jack had to go on when he did.

“The logical next race is Leopardstown at Christmas.”

Kennedy said: “I was happy enough the whole way. Just coming across the bottom, he put in a few clumsy jumps.

“I got there way too soon. When it was Coeur Sublime beside me, I wanted to get him under pressure as he hadn’t had a run this season and my lad did. It worked out that I was there too soon and he idled in front.

“A stronger gallop would have suited. I was waiting for them to come at me, but the line came in time.”

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.

Mullins pair among six on course for Morgiana

Willie Mullins’ pair of Saint Roi and Saldier head six in contention for the Unibet Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown.

Saint Roi has won three of his four starts for Mullins to date, signing off last term with an impressive County Hurdle success at Cheltenham before returning with a bloodless five-and-a-half-length verdict in a Tipperary Grade Three.

While the five-year-old arrives with the benefit of a run, stablemate Saldier would be having his first start on Sunday since winning this Grade One event last November.

The six-year-old shocked odds-on favourite and fellow Mullins inmate Klassical Dream 12 months ago, but did not run again after suffering a setback.

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Mullins has won the last nine renewals of the race. His chief rival this time appears to be Gordon Elliott’s Abacadabras, who suffered a surprise reverse at the hands of Aspire Tower on his return in the WKD Hurdle at Down Royal last month.

The winner’s stablemate Jason The Militant was back in third in that Grade Two event, and trainer Henry de Bromhead is planning to give him a chance at the top level this weekend.

He said: “I’d say we’ll have a go at the Morgiana this week. It’s a little bit quicker back than I normally would, but he’s tough.

“Paul (Townend) said he felt he might have started to race a little bit sooner than he ideally wanted to, and he said he took a good blow after the last (at Down Royal). I thought with his Flat run at Fairyhouse when he won, that would have had him spot on, but I’d left him a little bit short.

“He will come on for his run the other day. He’s a good horse, so it will be interesting to see him in the Morgiana.”

Jessica Harrington’s three-time Grade One winner Supasundae and the Gearoid O’Loughlin-trained Coeur Sublime complete the possibles.

Latest Exhibition is one of nine entries for the Grade Two Liam & Valerie Brennan Florida Pearl Novice Chase.

A Grade One scorer over hurdles, he made a winning chase bow for Paul Nolan at this track last month, but he could face some stiff opposition this time.

Elliott has Galway first and second Pencilfulloflead and Coko Beach, plus Run Wild Fred, while Joseph O’Brien’s Home By The Lee hit the target in Grade Three company last time.

Tom Mullins’ Court Maid is another to note after two impressive chase victories.