Cheltenham winner Energumene heads classy field at Cork Racecourse in Mallow

Kevin Murphy looks ahead of Sunday's card which includes the €100,000 Bar One Racing Hilly Way Chase
Cheltenham winner Energumene heads classy field at Cork Racecourse in Mallow

Energumene and groom Imran Haider pictured heading for the gallops at Champion Trainer Willie Mullins yard. Picture: Healy Racing

CHELTENHAM Champion Chase hero Energumene is set to return to Cork on Sunday for the €100,000 Bar One Racing Hilly Way Chase.

A bumper crowd is expected with racing fans on Leeside keen to see a real superstar in action.

Energumene claimed this race last season before lowering the colours of the mighty Shiskin at the Cheltenham Festival.

This race has been won by some real heroes of the national hunt scene, including Beef Or Salmon, Golden Silver, Douvan, and the brilliant Un De Sceaux.

Patrick Mullins, assistant to his father Willie, described Sunday’s race as “a perfect starting point” and he is excited about the prospect of getting the Tony Bloom-trained gelding back into action.

Mullins said: “It was obviously a perfect starting point for him last year and hopefully it can be the same again this year.

“We’ve been very happy with him at home and it will be great if he could go down and put in a similar performance in Mallow as he did last year.”

Energumene and groom Imran Haider. Picture: Healy Racing
Energumene and groom Imran Haider. Picture: Healy Racing

Potentially the biggest rival to Willie Mullins’ four-time Grade 1 winner is the fairytale horse, Master McShee.

Trained to Grade 1 glory in novice company last Christmas, trainer Paddy Corkery is hoping that December can well and truly be the most wonderful time of year for his eight-year-old stable star.

Master McShee has kept top company throughout his career and Sunday will be no different, but Corkery isn’t one to shy away from the best in the business.

Corkery said: “He’s working away well now but the only thing is coming out of my place, he’ll probably want the run. I just wouldn’t have the yardstick here to measure him against.

“He’s going into open company now and you have a strong line-up again, but when you look back on his form, that’s where Master McShee deserves to be. He won a Grade 1 last season and was second in two Grade 1s.”

GOLD CUP

Willie Mullins says Galopin De Champs is a Gold Cup horse and the closest horse to him last year was Master McShee.

The aforementioned Galopin De Champs makes his eagerly awaited seasonal debut in the John Durkan Chase at Punchestown with Paul Townend likely to ride.

The Cheltenham Gold Cup favourite, a Grade One-winning hurdler, was brilliant in winning three times over fences last season and would have been four from four had he not crashed out at the final fence in the Turners’ Novices’ Chase at the Festival in March.

He is a best-priced 11-4 to provide trainer Willie Mullins with a third Gold Cup success following the back-to-back wins of Al Boum Photo in 2019 and 2020 and will be a short price to enhance those claims in a race the champion trainer has won eight times, including in each of the past four years.

Cork’s stellar card also features the Grade 3 Singletons Supervalu Novice Hurdle which has attracted 11 entries including the Gordon Elliott-trained duo of Cool Survivor and Favori De Champdou.

John McConnell’s course and distance winner Grand Soir is a fascinating inclusion in the three-miler, while Henry de Bromhead has included Hiddenvalley Lake.

The Grade 2 O’Flynn Group Irish EBF Mares Novice Chase has been won by many good types over the years including Concertista last year and the likes of Vroum Vroum Mag, Listen Dear, and Shattered Love previously.

This year’s renewal could see the recent course and distance winner Dinoblue take on the fellow JP McManus-owned mare Roseys Hollow, while Colm Murphy’s current stable star Impervious is also in the mix.

Finally, the Champion Hurdle picture has really been shaken up with Constitution Hill romping to victory at Newcastle and Honeysuckle losing her unbeaten run at Fairyhouse last weekend.

With the Irish horses dominating the Cheltenham Festival in recent seasons the British racing public were crying out for a new star and there is no doubt Constitution Hill looks the real deal and is currently an odds-on chance for victory in March.

But the De Bromhead team and Rachael Blackmore will come back to Leopardstown for the Irish Champion Hurdle in early February and victory there will put them back on track.

The heavy ground conditions certainly didn’t play to Honeysuckle’s strengths and the Henry De Bromhead horses have just not been firing on all cylinders yet.

But there is plenty of time to turn things around and it would be terrific if both horses got to the starting tape for the Champion Hurdle in March.

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