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Mullins’ powerful raiding party poised for record haul at Olympics of jump racing

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GOLD CUP BOUND: Carlingford Lough is driven out by Tony McCoy to win the Galway Playe in 2013. The partrnership will be seeking festival glory in Cheltenham next Friday. Inset: 2014 Galway Plater winner Road To Riches is also a leading Gold Cup contender.

NICKY Henderson’s record haul of seven winners – headlined by Champion Chase hero Finian’s Rainbow – at the 2012 Cheltenham National Hunt Festival is at the mercy of Willie Mullins’ powerful string next week if the ante post prices for many of the meeting’s 27 races are taken as a reliable guide.

Though the bookmaking industry is regularly prone to wild bouts of exaggeration, pre-festival fears about a financial wipe out for the layers, especially on Cheltenham’s opening day, are hardly misplaced and there could be carnage in the betting ring as Ireland’s champion trainer is set to unleash a string of ‘hot pots’ in the Cotswolds.

Having saddled a total of nine winners at the last two Cheltenham festivals and crowned the meeting’s top trainer in three of the last four years, Mullins’ growing dominance of National Hunt racing’s showcase event has the potential to reach unparalleled levels in 2015.

Take Monday’s opening day’s card, for instance. As it stands Ireland’s champion trainer is set to saddle four perceived bankers in the shape of Douvan (Supreme Novices), Un De Sceaux (Arkle Chase), Faugheen (Champion Hurdle), and Annie Power (OLBG Mares Hurdle).

Furthermore, Mullins will have strong back up in most of those races while the Co. Carlow based handler has no shortage of artillery to fire at the rest of the festival either as Nicholas Canyon (Neptune Hurdle), Black Hercules (Albert Bartlett), Champagne Fever (Champion Chase or Ryanair), Vautour (JLT Novices Chase), Djakadam (Gold Cup), Don Poli (RSA or National Hunt Chase) and his host of challengers for the festival bumper underline the yard’s current awesome strength indepth.

Even allowing for the fact that Cheltenham in March is the sport’s most competitive arena and there are always unexpected results, Mullins clearly has the potential to rip the record books to shreds next week. He has already saddled a total of 33 winners at the festival, although curiously only five of those triumphs have come over fences.

Against that background, it comes as no surprise that Mullins has yet to savour glory in the meeting’s flagship race – the Gold Cup – but he is likely to be triple-handed this year even if Boston Bob, slightly below top class, and 2014 gallant runner up On His Own are now in the veteran stages.

At the other end of the age spectrum, Djakadam will be striving to become the first six-year-old to land chasing’s blue Riband event since Mill House in 1963. A faller at the top of the hill when still travelling strongly in last year’s JLT and disappointing on his seasonal bow when looking well handicapped in the Hennessy Gold Cup in Newbury last November, the Rich Ricci owned gelding remains in the ‘could be anything’ category.

There are bullish whispers coming from the Mullins stable about Djakadam, especially in the wake of trouncing his rivals off top weight in the Thyestes Chase at Gowran Park last month. It was a foggy afternoon and visibility was seriously restricted, but Ruby Walsh’s mount destroyed the field and could be a real improver even if there remains slight stamina doubts.

The Gold Cup betting is dominated by Silviniaco Conti, a faller at the third last in the 2013 edition before being run out of the places after leading over the final obstacle 12 months ago. Paul Nicholls’ stable star has since undergone treatment for ulcers and has looked an improved performer in the interim, especially when easily retaining the King George in Kempton at Christmas.

Supporters of Silviniaco Conti will be hoping he can make it third time lucky in the Gold Cup and, doubtless, should draw encouragement from The Fellow finally landing chasing’s most prestigious race at the fourth attempt in 1994. Dangers abound, however, not least in the shape of the last two winners of the Galway Plate, Carlingford Lough and Road To Riches.

Both horses have been thriving since their Ballybrit triumphs. Carlingford Lough may have taken longer than anticipated to make his mark over fences, but John Kiely’s charge has tumbled in the betting since getting the better of Foxrock in the Irish Hennessy at Leopardstown in February . . . the same venue where Road To Riches continued a stellar campaign by landing the Lexus Chase at Christmas.

Both Plate heroes go to Cheltenham with obvious chances and are currently trading at shorter odds than defending champion Lord Windermere. Jim Culloty’s nine-year-old edged out On His Own in a messy finish to last year’s Gold Cup, but having also won the RSA in 2013, the horse’s liking for Cheltenham’s undulations shouldn’t be under-estimated. The festival highlight has no amount of genuine contenders, including the progressive Many Clouds, but overall preference is for Holywell.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

 

CITY TRIBUNE

City sides will fancy chances of advancing as champions face Corofin

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Bearna's James Kennedy hits the deck in Ballinasloe on Tuesday as Annaghdown's Frankie Burke and Darragh Meehan try to chase down possession. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

The battle for this year’s county Senior Gaelic football club title looks to be wide open after the quarter-final draw was made this week following the delayed conclusion of the group stages on Tuesday night.

Salthill/Knocknacarra, who finished second in group 2, have been handed a last eight tie with a Tuam Stars side that finished third in group 1; while St Michael’s, who topped Group 3, will face an Annaghdown side that nabbed the final quarter-final spot in dramatic fashion on Tuesday night.

They went into their game with Bearna knowing they needed to win by a minimum of 12points to pip Milltown to the final qualifying spot as the second best of the teams that finished third in the group stages.

They looked to be coming up just short until they were awarded a late free, which goalkeeper James Healy converted, to snatch that remaining quarter-final slot on socring difference form Milltown.

The 2020 champions, Moycullen, will take on Claregalway in the last eight; while the pick of the ties is undoubtedly the clash of defending champions, Mountbellew/Moylough, with a Corofin side that was denied the five-in-a-row by Moycullen two years ago.

At the other end of the equation, St James’ are in a relegation battle, and face a clash with An Spidéal in the preliminary play-offs. A win will secure their senior status for another year, but a defeat will see them join Oughterard, An Cheathru Rua, and the losers of the other preliminary play-off between Caherlistrane and Monivea/Abbey in a round robin league, with the bottom two sides in those play-offs dropping to the intermediate ranks next year.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Play-offs dress rehearsal facing Utd against Treaty

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Former Galway United player Enda Curran celebrates his recent hat-trick for Treaty United in their FAI Cup quarter-final win over UCD. The in-form Mervue native will be facing the Tribesmen in a First Division clash on Friday.

GALWAY United head to Limerick this Friday evening for what is looking like a dress rehearsal for the end-of-season play-offs as they take on Treaty United in the Markets Field (7.45pm).

This is United’s game-in-hand over league leaders, Cork City, and a win will see them close the gap on the Leesiders to four points with three games remaining, and while a win would give the slightest of hopes of a late challenge for league honours, it is more likely to serve as a further boost to confidence ahead of the protracted play-off series that kicks-off at the end of next month.

United need to win their final four games to have any hope of snatching the title, and given the goal difference between the sides, they also need to hope that City don’t pick up more than four points from their last three games, if they are to finish top of the pile.

United’s last three games after this weekend are at home to Athlone, away to Wexford, and home to Longford Town; while City are home to Wexford, away to Athlone, and home to Bray, the easier of the two run-ins, so for United it is all about building momentum ahead of the play-offs.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

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The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

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CITY TRIBUNE

Late points from Burke and Wall grab draw for Corofin

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Tuam Stars' Paul Collins tries to halt Ronan Steede of Corofin in his tracks during Sunday's Senior Football Group 1 encounter at Tuam Stadium. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Corofin 0-16

Tuam Stars 0-16

Eanna O’Reilly at Tuam Stadium

A late point from Corofin’s Ian Burke denied Tuam Stars a notable win over their close neighbours in an entertaining contest at Tuam Stadium on Sunday afternoon. In a closely fought contest, the Stars appeared to have done enough with two late points from Brian Mannion putting them ahead by 0-16 to 0-14 in the dying minutes of the second half.

In typically composed fashion however, Corofin refused to panic and used all of their experience to engineer two late scores, the first from Dylan Wall, before Burke held his nerve to convert a mark to give Corofin a share of the spoils.

The result means that both sides qualified for the quarter finals, after both finished the group stages with eight points. Corofin were drawn against defending champions Mountbellew/Moylough in a mouth-watering tie, while Tuam Stars will face Salthill/Knocknacara in another intriguing clash.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

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