Acapella may hit high note for Mullins

Bour­geois’s first start for trainer could pro­vide Gold Cup clue Cold weather not ex­pected to hin­der Sun­day’s meet­ing, say of­fi­cials

The Irish Times - Sports Weekend - - SPORT RACING - BRIAN O’CON­NOR

The first Grade One of the Bri­tish jumps sea­son will fea­ture Gor­don El­liott’s Out­lander at Hay­dock on Satur­day.

But this week­end’s sin­gle most im­por­tant fig­ure could ul­ti­mately prove to be the one next to Acapella Bour­geois when he has his first start for Wil­lie Mullins at Na­van on Sun­day.

An of­fi­cial 149 rat­ing means the ex-San­dra Hughes trained horse has joint-top­weight for the ¤100,000 Lad­brokes Troytown Chase and must con­cede up to two stone to some of his 21 ri­vals.

That op­po­si­tion will in­clude half a dozen El­liott hope­fuls as he aims for four-in-a-row in the pres­ti­gious hand­i­cap won last year by Em­pire Of Dirt, the cen­tre­piece of an out­stand­ing 41,276-1 six-timer for the lo­cal trainer.

Michael O’Leary’s Gig­gin­stown Stud team have six Troytown hopes of their own on a card which will ear­lier see their new great white hope Samcro bid to main­tain his un­beaten record.


Out­lander is a Gig­gin­stown stal­wart al­ready and will pro­vide an early sea­son cross-chan­nel Gold Cup form link by lin­ing up against Cue Card and Bris­tol de Mai in Hay­dock’s Bet­fair Chase.

It’s the first leg of a po­ten­tial mil­lion pounds Triple Crown cul­mi­nat­ing in March’s Chel­tenham Gold Cup.

Even al­low­ing for all that, many will sus­pect the most rel­e­vant long-term Gold Cup hint won’t come in the Grade One but in Na­van’s big hand­i­cap prize and the quandary pre­sented for pun­ters by Acapella Bour­geois.

In such fiercely com­pet­i­tive hand­i­caps the al­ready low per­cent­age of top­weight win­ners gen­er­ally slides even fur­ther. It will also be Acapella Bour­geois’ first race in seven months. Yet on Fri­day the big-race spon­sors re­ported al­ready halv­ing his price to 3-1 favourite.

Part of that is due to ev­i­dence pro­vided in last month’s Mun­ster Na­tional of just how lethal to lay­ers a horse in­her­ited by Mullins can be.

To­tal Re­call moved with Acapella Bour­geois af­ter San­dra Hughes’s re­tire­ment and car­ry­ing the same Slaneyville Syn­di­cate colours at Lim­er­ick he made a mock­ery of his mark to win eas­ily as a well backed 2-1 favourite.

If Mullins con­jures sim­i­lar lev­els of im­prove­ment in Acapella Bour­geois then book­mak­ers will be en­ti­tled to run scared

Throw into the equa­tion those hopes for Acapella Bour­geois de­vel­op­ing into a gen­uine Gold Cup con­tender – he is al­ready as low as 16-1 for Chel­tenham in March – and time could make this mark of 149 look like a gift to pun­ters from the hand­i­cap gods.

If the im­pact of his switch is un­know­able then it’s fact that Mullins’s new re­cruit has al­ready shown how much he can rel­ish three miles on heavy ground around Na­van.

His front-run­ning rout in last Fe­bru­ary’s Ten Up Chase was hugely im­pres­sive any­way. How­ever, putting 32 lengths be­tween him­self and Road To Re­spect is even more note­wor­thy given the lat­ter’s sub­se­quent el­e­va­tion to po­ten­tial Gold Cup sta­tus.

Acapella Bour­geois did sub­se­quently fail to show the same level of abil­ity in two starts but ground con­di­tions had turned bet­ter by then.

Any num­ber of cases can be made for any num­ber of his ri­vals in form­book terms on Sun­day. And or­di­nar­ily the idea of hav­ing them all on their side as pun­ters pile into a short-priced top­weight would have book­mak­ers lick­ing their lips. Plenty will be pre­pared to bet it’s dif­fer­ent this time.

De­spite the cold weather snap, of­fi­cials at Na­van re­port that “no prob­lems” are an­tic­i­pated ahead of Sun­day’s fix­ture and Gowran’s au­thor­i­ties are also con­fi­dent about their Satur­day card.

“The fore­cast I’m look­ing at says it is sup­posed to get down to mi­nus one overnight so I can’t imag­ine ground frost will be an is­sue,” said the Gowran man­ager, Ed­die Scally, yes­ter­day. “It dropped to mi­nus three last night and it had cleared by 10am. There’s no fear about rac­ing.”

Only Al­tior and his sta­ble com­pan­ion Dou­van are ahead of Min in Queen Mother Cham­pion Chase bet­ting lists so he should have lit­tle more than a re­mu­ner­a­tive school around Gowran on his come­back run.


Only Min dis­rupted Gor­don El­liott’s mem­o­rable wipe-out of Na­van’s Troytown card a year ago and his sub­se­quent Grade One suc­cess at Christ­mas in­di­cated the Mullins run­ner has the po­ten­tial to be even bet­ter over fences than he was over flights.

As well as Min and Acapella Bour­geois, Paul Tow­nend can look for­ward to five other week­end spins for Mullins and the novice pair of Carter McKay and Shar­jah can get the bet­ter of their El­liott trained ri­vals at Gowran.

The Mullins-El­liott ri­valry will then con­tinue to the Be­gin­ners Chase which looks a po­ten­tial match be­tween Tin Sol­dier and Mon­beg No­to­ri­ous.

A to­tal of nine will line up for Sun­day’s Monks­field Novice Hur­dle but all eyes will be on the hugely re­garded Samcro, mem­o­rably de­scribed re­cently by Davy Rus­sell as be­ing “as good a horse as we’ll ever see”.

With billing like that any­thing other than a dom­i­nant dis­play by Jack Kennedy’s mount will feel like a let-down.


Acapella Bour­geois when he has his first start for Wil­lie Mullins at Na­van to­mor­row

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