IT must have been music to the ears of Willie Mullins when earlier this season it was announced that the Irish Cesarewitch would now be worth a mammoth €600,000.

Joe Keeling and his fellow friends of the Curragh have put up a serious pot and there probably is no trainer better placed to take full advantage. Mullins has the right type of horse for this race and it’s the right time of the year for him. He has won three of the last seven renewals at the Curragh and three of the last four of the original version at Newmarket.

Unsurprisingly he has five runners in the line-up today and it could become six if new recruit Scaramanga gets a run from first reserve. As this race beds into the Irish schedule, one of the key trial races could well be the Connacht Hotel Handicap at Galway and Mullins sent out a one-two-four there, with that trio all set to take their chance tomorrow.

The winner of that contest, Echoes In Rain, is the shortest priced but when speaking to The Irish Field yesterday, Mullins was positive on the chances of all three.

“Echoes In Rain came out of Galway well,” he said. “We’ve been pointing her at this race since. I think she’s in good form. The ground won’t be an issue and the trip won’t be an issue. She’s rated 9lbs higher now and we have to hope to that she improves that much.

“Maze Runner was third in this race last year and he ran a great race at Galway to finish second. Ronan Whelan rides him and he’s another horse who won’t be bothered by the ground. He has an excellent each-way chance on his Galway form and the form of his run in this race last year.

“Lot Of Joy was having her first run for us in Galway so I’m expecting a good bit of improvement from her. She ran on well at Galway. Her form last year on the continent was good and she looked like a filly that is capable of maturing and performing better than her previous runs.

“She must have a great chance. Danny Tudhope rides her and I think she has a great chance of making his trip to come over well worth it.”

The champion jumps trainer could end up top-and-tailing the weights should Scaramanga get a run off his mark of 90, which is a sign of the deep quality of this inaugural running.

“Scaramanga ran well but was a little disappointing for connections at Ascot,” Mullins said. “He’s never run for us before and they tell me the ground conditions might not suit him, he likes it good and lively. However, the Curragh does dry out very quickly and I don’t think there’s a lot of rain forecast for the weekend.

“Tax For Max ran in Roscommon over a trip which looked too short but it was a nice start back. I think this trip will suit him much better. It’s a big task to win the Cesarewitch off his weight but over this trip it’s a possibility for him.

“Whiskey Sour is there and Joey Sheridan takes a valuable 3lbs off him. Ground and trip will be no problem.”

The favourite for the race is Aidan O’Brien’s Waterville, much hyped at the start of the season but so far failing to convert his potential. However he’ll go some way to paying his way with a win here. Joseph O’Brien, fresh off a brilliant week in Kerry, runs nine, of which the shortest priced is the classy four-year-old Cleveland.

The race promises to be a captivating contest and Mullins concluded: “This is a fabulous new addition to the Irish racing calendar, to have a big handicap for these type of horses. It must be a good incentive, along with the likes of the Ebor and English Cesarewitch, to keep stoutly bred flat horses in training.”

Blackbeard the one to beat

IT’S been a surprise all week that Marshman has edged Blackbeard in the betting for today’s Group 1 Juddmonte Middle Park Stakes (3.00), and the market remained that way yesterday evening.

Then again, Blackbeard could be that perennially underrated horse throughout his career. He’s not by Galileo. He isn’t named after a painter or philosopher or country or a basic word. He often acts up and misbehaves in the preliminary stages before his races. He was beaten on his fourth run in the Coventry and when racing at Group 2 level in Ireland, he was a beaten favourite.

Today will be his eighth run in total and that can be scoffed at when people look at top class juveniles.

Yet the son of No Nay Never has won five of his seven starts including at Group 1 level on his latest appearance in France in the Prix Morny, and he seems to be getting better with experience.

That’s the same for Marshman, but in contrast, he needs to get better to beat Blackbeard today. And it’s the same with third favourite Mischief Magic.

To put your faith in either of those runners is to put your faith in potential because their form isn’t of the same standard of Aidan O’Brien’s colt.