Patrick Mullins believes Saint Roi is the currently the leading hope for Champion Hurdle honours based at his father’s Closutton yard.
With Sharjah and Saldier also in the mix among Willie Mullins’ battalion, the amateur jockey is hopeful last year’s County Hurdle winner Saint Roi can make the step up, despite meeting with defeat when slightly unlucky in the Morgiana Hurdle on his most recent run.
Speaking at the launch of Leopardstown’s Christmas Festival, Mullins junior revealed Saint Roi is one of four potential runners for the team in the Matheson Hurdle on December 29.
“Saint Roi looks the number one at the moment. I know he hasn’t won a Grade One, but he has huge potential,” said the assistant trainer.
“He’s won around Cheltenham and for me, at he moment he could be the Champion Hurdle horse.
“We were very surprised with how keen he ran in Punchestown (in the Morgiana) and he gave Mark (Walsh) an awful time. Because he was so keen, his jumping got sloppy.
“He winged the third last and Mark was left in a situation where he could go forward and risk him doing too much and having his race run before the last, or take him back and hope he could get a run. It just didn’t work out and that happens.
“Looking at the race you’d like to think he’d be able to reverse the form with Abacadabras, but it’s not always that simple.
“I don’t particularly think he needs a strong pace, for whatever reason he just got fresh on the day.
“David Casey rides him every day at home now and I don’t expect that to be an issue again, to be honest.
“It’s a fascinating race. Obviously Abacadabras won the last day and he’s the one we have to go and get.”
The yard’s other entries include high-class mare Concertista and Sharjah, who Patrick Mullins has steered to win the race in each of the past two seasons.
He added: “Concertista was very impressive the last day, but that was a second season mares race and this is another big step up.
“I hope she does run though because Paul (Townend) will probably ride her and that means I’ll get back on Sharjah!
“I think he could be a huge price at around 10-1 as he loves the dry ground there and loves the track.
“He got a little break after Galway. We tried him back on the Flat, but he just doesn’t seem the same horse on the Flat.
“Last season in the Champion Hurdle (at Cheltenham), it was such a big field and we dropped out. In a normal year if there had been seven or eight runners we’d have been five lengths closer.
“Would that have turned the tables with Epatante? – maybe not, but if it was a smaller field this year I wouldn’t mind another crack at her.”
Saldier has been off the track since winning last year’s Morgiana, but there is no doubting his ability.
“Saldier is a very exciting horse. He was probably going to beat Espoir D’Allen in Naas the day he fell as Ruby (Walsh) hadn’t gone for his stick and Mark (Walsh) had,” said Mullins.
“He got a nasty fall there, which put him back, and he’s very fragile.
“We chose not to run him in the Morgiana or Hatton’s Grace as we felt he wasn’t ready enough. You don’t want to be too hard on him at home either, so it’s a balancing act.
“He’s going to be better in March whatever he does at Christmas.”