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Mullins' strength I in depth.

PAUL NICHOLLS may be the dominant force in the training department, especially when it comes to superstar chasers between two miles and three and a quarter.

But Willie Mullins arguably has even greater strength in depth in the novice hurdle department just now.

Champion Bumper winner Cousin Vinny looks like taking equally high rank over timber, Hurricane Fly already has two Grade One events on his CV, and the less heralded Quiscover Fontaine is a likely candidate for the three-mile novice at Cheltenham.

But in the long run they may all end up giving best to Mikael D'Haguenet, who maintained his unbeaten record for Mullins in the Goffs Slaney Novice Hurdle at Naas.

Bought as a prospective chaser, he has now won a maiden hurdle, the Grade One Barry & Sandra Kelly Memorial, and now added a Grade Two to his collection.

Huge in stature, the five-year-old would not have been suited by the pedestrian early pace set by Western Charmer, and nearly all of the six runners were still on the bridle turning into the straight.

Clan Tara was the only serious challenger over the final flight, but a quick shake of the reins from Ruby Walsh saw his mount quicken up for a three-and-a-half length win over Western Charmer.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jan 5, 2009
Words:210
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