The last thing the British trainers needed was for Willie Mullins to take an interest in the Glenfarclas Handicap Chase as his horse Uncle Junior is shortening odds with Ladbrokes for Cheltenham glory.
The Irish have won every running of this race since it was brought in 2005, with the home attack only managing five places from a whopping 56 runners.
It was thought that the sequence would be broken last season when Maljimar was backed into favouritism for Nick Williams but despite holding every chance over the final flight he could only manage to finish fourth.
He is back again this season but it’s one of the two Mullins runners, Uncle Junior, who rates as the most likely winner around the 9/2 mark.
The eleven-year-old first came to our attention when winning the Punchestown Festival’s marathon chase off top weight last May and showed his liking for the Cheltenham cross-country lay-out in November.
Under Patrick Mullins, who is replaced by brother Emmet for the ride today, Uncle Junior had enough class and fight in the finish to hold off the two-time winner of this race Garde Champetre by two and a half lengths.
Many will argue that he would have also won on his most recent start on the course had the half the field took the wrong turn as the runners approached home.
Hopefully, the riders won’t make the same mistake today, and, if, and it’s a big if, they do get round without any problems, then it’s very likely Uncle Junior will be the one at the head of affairs.
Last year’s victor Sizing Australia also holds strong claims as he has been purposely laid out for this race but the two Mullins didn’t run last season and this year’s renewal is all the stronger for it.
Course favourite Garde Champetre will be a popular winner with the locals but at the age of 13, he looks to have lost his infamous finishing kick that got him out of jail on many occasions in the past.
0.5 pts on Uncle Junior (4/1 Various)