Roi Des Francs reigns supreme for Willie Mullins

Roi Des Francs gave Willie Mullins a third successive win (and a fourth in five years) in the Grade 3 Surehaul Mercedes Benz Novice Hurdle in Clonmel yesterday, the centrepiece of another treble for the champion trainer.

Mullins, who included two Grade 1 successes in a trio of victories in Leopardstown on Sunday, also struck with Argentino and a back-to-form Turban.

Winner of his maiden hurdle in Thurles on his first outing for his current handler, Roi Des Francs edged ahead before the straight and produced fluent leaps at the final two flights to seal victory by two and a quarter lengths, after the challenging Fine Article fluffed the last flight when holding every chance.

The second leg of a double for Bryan Cooper and Gigginstown House Stud, Roi Des Francs was described by Mullins as “every inch a staying chaser” before adding: “The Michael Purcell in Thurles will come too soon for him, so we’ll probably wait for Fairyhouse at Easter. I was afraid the track might be too sharp for him today, but he won well.”

After Argentino outpointed favourite I Knew Well in the opening Surehaul Race Day Maiden Hurdle, Coper admitted: “I made too much use of him in Thurles and I was a lot more patient on him this time – I decided to use his speed. He’s a real summer horse.”

Turban, ridden by Ruby Walsh, completed the Mullins treble when, tackling a new trip, he came from off the pace under a well-judged ride to foil Rubi Light, stretching clear of the front-runner on the run-in to score by three and a half lengths.

Wearing the Un De Sceaux colours of Eddie O’Connell, Turban was recording his first win since landing the Dan Moore in Fairyhouse more than a year ago. Mullins acknowledged: “He had never won beyond two miles, so we were experimenting over the new trip. That’s why we planned to drop him out and let Ruby take his time.”

Outlining plans, he explained: “I wouldn’t rule out one of the handicaps in Cheltenham, although he needs soft ground – so we’d be hoping for a wet week and the Topham (in Aintree) is another possibility.”

The Aga Khan-bred Dalmatia, formerly trained by Michael Stoute and having her second run for Eddie Harty, made all under Adrian Heskin to win the Kilsheelan Mares Maiden Hurdle convincingly from Blazing West.

Harty enthused, “It’s the first time she got her had in front, but time is on her side. She was entitled to win today on her Leopardstown form. She’ll probably go for a Grade 3 novice in Limerick next month (March 15).”

Faugheen will head straight for the Cheltenham Festival after Willie Mullins decided against letting him line up in this weekend’s Red Mills Trial Hurdle at Gowran Park.

The champion trainer mentioned the Grade Two contest as a possible port of call for his Stan James Champion Hurdle favourite earlier this month, but after seeing his charge work on the Closutton gallops on Tuesday morning and consulting stable jockey Ruby Walsh, Mullins feels his charge does not need another outing before heading for Prestbury Park.

Mullins said: “He worked this morning, we were very happy with him and he’s 100 per cent. We had a chat with Ruby this morning and we just felt we’d enough done and we don’t need to run him again.”

Despite Faugheen’s absence Mullins could still be represented in the Red Mills Hurdle having entered Analifet and Abbyssial.

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