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Energumene back in action in Hilly Way

© Photo Healy Racing

Champion Chase winner Energumene is set to return to Cork on Sunday for the €100,000 Bar One Racing Hilly Way Chase, a season opening stepping stone that proved more than fruitful for Willie Mullins’ star chaser last term.

Patrick Mullins, assistant to his father Willie, described Sunday’s race as “a perfect starting point” and he is excited about the prospect of getting the Tony Bloom-trained gelding back into action.

Mullins said: “It was obviously a perfect starting point for him last year and hopefully it can be the same again this year. We’ve been very happy with him at home and it will be great if he could go down and put in a similar performance in Mallow as he did last year.”

A small but very select field of seven runners go forward for the Grade 2 showpiece at the Mallow racecourse on Sunday with Henry de Bromhead’s recent Grade 2 winner Captain Guinness and his stable companion Epson Du Houx among the potential opposition.

Potentially the biggest rival to Willie Mullins’ four time Grade 1 winner is the fairytale horse, Master McShee.

Trained to Grade 1 glory in novice company last Christmas, trainer Paddy Corkery is hoping that December can well and truly be the most wonderful time of year for his eight-year-old stable star.

Master McShee has kept top company throughout his career and Sunday will be no different but Corkery isn’t one to shy away from the best in the business.

“I've had a good few setbacks with him,” Corkery said on Tuesday. “I was to go a couple of weeks back but just didn't make it so obviously I was going to leave it until he was right and not rush him.

“He's working away well now but the only thing is coming out of my place, he'll probably want the run. I just wouldn't have the yardstick here to measure him against. He'll have his final bit of work on Thursday and we'll make the final decision then but the plan is to be in Cork on Sunday all being well.”

After hitting the top heights in novice company last season, Corkery is excited by the prospect of taking on open company with Master McShee and is hoping that the wonderful journey continues.

“He's going into open company now and you have a strong line-up again but when you look back on his form, that's where Master McShee deserves to be. He won a Grade 1 last season and was second in two Grade 1s. Willie Mullins says Galopin De Champs is a Gold Cup horse and the closest horse to him last year was Master McShee.

“He's versatile as regards distance too and two miles on soft ground would be lovely if we get that at Cork.”

Cork’s stellar card also features the Grade 3 Singletons Supervalu Novice Hurdle which has attracted 11 entries including the Gordon Elliott-trained duo of Cool Survivor and Favori De Champdou.

John McConnell’s course and distance winner Grand Soir is a fascinating inclusion in the three miler, while Henry de Bromhead has included Hiddenvalley Lake.

The Grade 2 O’Flynn Group Irish EBF Mares Novice Chase has been won by many good types over the years including Concertista last year and the likes of Vroum Vroum Mag, Listen Dear and Shattered Love previously.

This year’s renewal could see the recent course and distance winner Dinoblue take on the fellow JP McManus-owned mare Roseys Hollow, while Colm Murphy’s current stable star Impervious is also in the mix.