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Willie Mullins Double-Handed On First Day 13/03/07

Irish trainer Willie Mullins will be double-handed today courtesy of Ebaziyan in the opening Anglo Irish Bank Supreme Novices’ Hurdle (2pm) and Jayo in the concluding Fred Winter Juvenile Novices’ Handicap Hurdle (5.20pm).

Speaking yesterday morning at Prestbury Park while supervising his team, the County Carlow-based handler, who has saddled nine winners at the Cheltenham Festival, was complimentary about the course.

“It looks well and there is a nice bit of grass,” he enthused. “I haven’t yet walked the whole track though.”

Ebaziyan got off the mark at the second time of asking over hurdles, justifying favouritism by a length from Jumeirah Scarer in a maiden event at Thurles on the first day of February.

Mullins, who is chasing a second Supreme victory having taken the £120,000 event with Tourist Attraction in 1995, said: “He didn’t win well - he just won - and he would have to be a lot better than that to be in the first three.

“He does have that chance though because he ran back very quickly after his first run [at Cork on January 21] and was a bit dead.

“I needed to run him at Thurles and hopefully he will improve. The ground will be no problem and neither will the course.”

A victory for Mullins with Jayo in the Fred Winter would be a second Irish success in the two-mile contest, which was taken by Paul Nolan’s Dabiroun in the inaugural running in 2005, when the Festival became a four-day event from three.

Jayo scored on his hurdling bow in a maiden event at Limerick just after Christmas, but was then pulled up at Punchestown before falling at the second last at Fairyhouse last month.

“He pulled a muscle and fell on his next two runs after winning,” explained Mullins.

“With a clear run, he is nicely handicapped and the ground and track should suit.”

The trainer is a specialist in Wednesday’s concluding Weatherbys Champion Bumper (5.20pm), having taken the race five times since it was first run in 1992 with Wither Or Which (1996), Florida Pearl the following year, Alexander Banquet (1998), Joe Cullen (2000) and, most recently, Missed That in 2005.

This year Mullins could run Cooldine, Fiveforthree and Mad Fish in a bid to continue the fine record of Irish-trained horses, who have won 11 of the 14 runnings, in this contest.

The last-named, who has been widely touted as the trainer’s best hope, is likely to again come up against Aranleigh, who beat him by five lengths in a bumper at Fairyhouse in January.

“All three are in good form and I haven’t changed my mind that Mad Fish is the one,” said Mullins. “He was on the track this morning and is in good form. He’ll handle the ground alright and it’s drying out all the time.”

Mullins is bringing a team of 14 horses to Cheltenham this year and believes that 12 of them will get a run.

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