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All roads lead to Cheltenham for Willie Mullins and Paul Townend following Naas treble

Willie Mullins and Paul Townend enjoyed a near perfect warm-up for the Cheltenham Festival after signing off on home soil with a Sunday treble at Naas.

The formidable partnership is widely expected to dominate proceedings at Prestbury Park this week, with Tullyhill, Gaelic Warrior, State Man and Lossiemouth all strongly fancied on the opening afternoon on Tuesday.

The action was a little more low-key in County Kildare, but the Closutton team nevertheless served an ominous notice of what could be to come in the Cotswolds with a hat-trick of victories.

Mullins fired a twin assault at the Grade Three Bar One Racing ‘Guaranteed Overnight Prices’ Kingsfurze Novice Hurdle, and it was 9/4 shot Fun Fun Fun who made all the running under Townend, with his better-fancied stablemate Mirazur West beaten into third as a 4/6 favourite.

“That was super and the race suited Fun Fun Fun, a quick enough two miles and she jumped great,” said Patrick Mullins, assistant to his father.

“She’ll go to Fairyhouse next, I don’t know if two and a half miles there will really suit her but it’s a mares’ novice Grade One so she’ll go there.”

On Mirazur West, he added: “I didn’t get to talk to Mark (Walsh) yet, but it looked like he was just too keen. We were hoping the hood would help, but it’s back to the drawing board.”

Mullins and Townend also combined to land the other Grade Three on the card, the Bar One Racing ‘Extra Places At Cheltenham’ Directors Plate Novice Chase, as Tactical Move justified 1-2 favouritism in the colours of Champion Hurdle favourite State Man.

Townend said: “He’s won but he jumped average for him, I was really looking forward to riding him to be honest but I never really go into a rhythm on him. He wanted to go left everywhere.

“He went to the first and went left for some reason and then never concentrated afterwards but look he’s won, and won with mistakes, so it’s a good sign.”

The Mullins-Townend treble was initiated by Olympic Man, sporting the silks of reigning and defending Gold Cup hero Galopin Des Champs.

The evens favourite, previously placed twice at Galway, was far from fluent in the jumping department but still had far too many guns for his rivals in the Bar One Racing “Guaranteed Multiples All Shops” Maiden Hurdle, passing the post with 15 lengths in hand.

“It showed that Willie is getting a good run at training him now when he could put in that performance while jumping (like that),” said Townend.

“The first day (he ran) it was just good to get him on the track but it was disappointing he didn’t back it up the second day. He just felt a different horse now that he’s getting a good run at him and he can train him, he makes a difference.

“He can jump, he has a load of it done. Once we can keep him right the engine is in there. Fair play to the owners for persevering with him as he hasn’t been easy.”

Minella Cocooner was the 9-4 market leader to make it a four-timer for the combination in the Bar One Racing Leinster National, but he was ultimately well beaten as Gavin Cromwell’s Hartur D’arc (4-1) claimed top honours in the hands of Sean Flanagan.

“That was nice. We weren’t really sure whether he’d stay, but obviously when we pitched him in here we thought he might,” said Cromwell.

“Sean gave him a nice ride and everything happened for him. It was a lovely pot to win.

“You’d have to consider the Irish National with him, I know it’s a lot further.”

Cromwell also plundered the big race at Limerick, the Grade Three Irish Stallion Farms EBF Shannon Spray Mares Novice Hurdle, with Bioluminescence (7/4).

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