bet365 Celebration Chase
Grade 1, Sandown 13:40
£160,000 guaranteed,
5yo plus,
2m, Class 1   
Saturday 27th April 2024

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El Fabiolo is set to compete, as part of Willie Mullins’ bid to secure the title of Britain’s champion jumps trainer.

With I Am Maximus’ victory at the Randox Grand National in Aintree, Mullins has taken the lead in the title race. He views winning the championship as a ‘once in a lifetime achievement’ and aims to fend off competitors Dan Skelton and perennial champion Paul Nicholls. 

While most of Mullins’ top horses are being prepared for the Punchestown Festival, El Fabiolo may skip an outing in County Kildare to race in the Celebration Chase, a £170,000 event that could significantly impact the championship standings.

Speaking at a press morning at his yard to promote the Punchestown Festival, Mullins said: “El Fabiolo will definitely go to Sandown.

“The Celebration Chase is an important race and it looks like a big race that we have the winning of, which would be huge.

“A lot will depend on what happens between now and Punchestown, (but) looking at it, we’re about £50,000 in front, so if we won that (Celebration Chase), one of the other guys would have to win another feature and probably another race to pass us.

“It’s a three-score game at the moment, but Paul is really a master of winning the championship and he will have his tactics in his head already. He could win the Scottish National and the bet365 Gold Cup and blow us out of the water, but you need a lot of luck to do that too.

“We’re just hoping that we can get one nice prize – and with a bit of luck, it will make it difficult then for Dan and Paul.

“We’re getting huge goodwill, especially from a lot of people across the water. They’re saying it’s adding a bit of spice to the end of the season and it’s a once in a lifetime achievement if we can manage to pull it off, so we’re going to put everything into it.”

FormRatings

El Fabiolo will be on a retrieval mission if he does turn up at Sandown after a bad mistake led to him being pulled up as a 2-9 favourite for the Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.

Mullins revealed the seven-year-old was feeling the effects of his disappointing effort after returning to Ireland, but is confident he is now back on-song.

He added: “He just wasn’t right when he came back from Cheltenham, so I just gave him a break and let him find his feet, so he’s bucking and kicking the last few mornings.

“He just wasn’t himself, but there was nothing to treat when we got home. Sometimes you just give a horse a break and let him recuperate and he’s done that and seems in good form now.

“He’s as fit as a flea and one or two bits of work should see him right for Sandown, I imagine.”

Another horse under consideration for a trip to Sandown is Arkle hero Gaelic Warrior, although the six-year-old does also have the option of Punchestown’s Barberstown Castle Novice Chase.

Mullins said: “Gaelic Warrior always looked very, very good but that form got a huge boost and it would be nice going to Punchestown with that, but I think he holds an entry in Sandown, so we’ll see how things go but I’d like to go to Punchestown with him.

“It’s sort of thrown a bit of a spanner in the works for our team but we still have an A-team I think to bring to Punchestown anyhow.

“It’s not something I like doing (running a novice in open company), but maybe this year we might have to look. El Fabiolo will be there, though, maybe he’d be enough.”

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