/ Racing

Willie Mullins sends Upazo for Tolworth Hurdle

Updated: Friday, 10 Jan 2014 13:48 | Comments

Upazo is a best-price 5-2 for the Tolworth
Upazo is a best-price 5-2 for the Tolworth

Willie Mullins is keen to find out where Upazo ranks in his talented crop of novice hurdlers by letting him line up in the williamhill.com Levy Board Tolworth Hurdle at Kempton on Saturday.

Mullins has a formidable hand in the division this season, with the likes of Briar Hill, Faugheen and Vautour expected to bid for major honours at the Festivals this spring.

French bumper winner Upazo surprisingly failed to find the winner's spot in four attempts over hurdles in Ireland last season, but as a result, maintained his novice status for the new campaign.

He has made the most of his experience by recording successive victories at Fairyhouse in November and December and Ireland's champion trainer now tests his six-year-old against some of Britain's top youngsters.

Mullins said: "Upazo is rated very high by the handicapper over in Ireland, and in England, too, so it's a case of running him to see where he fits in really.

"We have a lot of nice novices and this will give us some sort of clue as to where he stands.

"He took his time to warm to hurdling but has won his last two races nicely."

Upazo is the only Irish-trained participant in a field of seven declared runners.

Heading the home team is David Pipe's The Liquidator, who won the Grade One bumper at the Punchestown Festival last season and has been hugely impressive in scoring at Carlisle and Cheltenham over timber.

The Pond House handler is looking forward to seeing his charge test the water at Grade One level, but admits switching the Tolworth from last weekend's abandoned Sandown meeting to an easier track like Kempton may not be in his favour.

Pipe said: "I think it would have suited him more had it taken place at Sandown last week as it's a more galloping track, but we're keen to see where we stand.

"This race will answer a lot of questions, not just for us but for everybody, it looks a good race, hotter than in recent years.

"Tom (Scudamore) schooled him last week, just before the original race was supposed to be run, and he jumped very well. That has been very pleasing that his jumping has been so good so far."

Scudamore echoed Pipe's thoughts, telling At The Races: "As David said, it would have suited him better if the race was at Sandown last week but that's the way the dice rolls.

"From the first moment I schooled him he just felt a little bit different and I'm hoping that he'll maintain that upwards level and fulfil everybody's dreams.

"He's won on very heavy ground and run well on slightly better ground at the Festival when he was fourth (in the Champion Bumper).

"We know he handles Cheltenham too, he's just a high quality horse, definitely one of our better ones and one I always looked forward to riding."

Martin Keighley has declared Creepy for both the Tolworth and the Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle at Warwick, better known as the Leamington.

Nicky Henderson is double-handed with Josses Hill (Barry Geraghty) and Royal Boy (Tony McCoy).

The field is completed by the Philip Hobbs-trained Garde La Victoire, the mount of Richard Johnson.

Josses Hill looked the part when making a winning debut over hurdles at Newbury in December and while Henderson views the six-year-old as a prospective chaser, he feels he deserves his place in the field.

Royal Boy signed off last season by finishing third in this race, but disappointed on his chasing debut at this track in November.

He looked far happier back over the smaller obstacles when winning over two and three-quarter miles at Ascot last month and the return to the minimum distance is not expected to be an issue.

Henderson said: "They are two slightly different horses, but both are very talented.

"Royal Boy has been running over a bit further, but he's not a slow horse.

"He was placed in this race last year and has some smart form at two miles, so I wouldn't be worried about coming back in trip, to be honest.

"Josses Hill is a lovely young horse. Yes he's a chaser for next year, but at the same time he's quite sharp and this is going to be a test, that is for certain.

"We know Royal Boy will handle the ground. Josses Hill might prefer it a bit better, but we'll see."

Garde La Victoire won his first two starts over hurdles at Aintree and Warwick before finding Ballyalton a neck too strong at Cheltenham.

Johnson is hopeful his mount can make his presence felt this weekend.

He said: "It was a very good run at Cheltenham and he only turned five last week, so hopefully he is still improving.

"He's a very straightforward horse and the track should be fine for him and he shouldn't mind the ground.

"It's a strong race, but he's an exciting horse and I'm keeping my fingers crossed for a big show."

User contributions and/or comments do not, unless specifically stated, represent the views of RTÉ.ie or RTÉ.
Click here for Terms of use