Willie Mullins expects to learn plenty about Yorkhill’s ambitions for the rest of the season when he takes on stablemate Min in the Coral Dublin Chase at Leopardstown on Saturday.
Mullins has never made any secret of the regard in which he holds Yorkhill and he has largely lived up to expectations, winning nine of his 12 starts under Rules, including successive victories at the Cheltenham Festival.
It is a measure of his talent and reputation that he was considered a viable contender for races ranging from the Champion Hurdle to the Cheltenham Gold Cup at the start of the season, although the latter was effectively ruled out after a disappointing first appearance over three miles in the Leopardstown Christmas Chase.
Mullins said: “I never thought he was a Gold Cup horse and from day one I thought he was probably a Champion Hurdle horse.
“If he’s very hard to ride in a two-mile hurdle race, how are you going to ride him over three and a quarter miles (over fences) around Cheltenham?
“We will know a lot more after this. If we think he is near Champion Hurdle class and the way he jumps fences then it’s possible that we could have a potential Champion Chase horse.”
Yorkhill bids to bounce back to winning ways in this two-mile Grade Two, but faces a serious threat from within his own yard.
Min suffered just one defeat in his first six starts for Mullins and that was when splitting Altior and Buveur D’Air in the 2016 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.
The seven-year-old lost a Grade One over this course and distance in the Leopardstown stewards’ room over the festive period and owner Rich Ricci is hoping he can set the record straight.
He said: “I don’t think that was his true running and I hope it wasn’t. He’s fine.
“He has only run four times over fences and hopefully he will learn more on the day.”
The horse who profited from Min’s demotion in late December was the Nicky Richards-trained Simply Ned, who is in opposition again.
Richards said: “I’ve no doubt Willie will be waiting for me this time!
“We’ve had great fun with our horse. He’s run some fine races and hopefully he’ll run another fine one on Saturday.”
Mullins also saddles Ballycasey, while t he field is completed by Henry de Bromhead’s trio of Queen Mother Champion Chase hero Special Tiara, Alisier D’Irlande and Ordinary World.
Special Tiara suffered the first fall of his career in the Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton on his latest appearance and has not run in Ireland in almost two years.
De Bromhead said: “Any time we run him in Ireland, he seems to run terrible. Obviously ground is a big thing.
“The better the ground is, the better his chance, but he probably needs to have a run either way, having fallen the last day.”