Esprit back in the hunt

Quel Esprit, Willie Mullins' 2012 Irish Hennessy winner, will run in a hunter chase at Leopardstown on February 9.

The grey, however, is not eligible for the CGA Foxhunter Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.

The 10-year-old won a point-to-point at Ballinaboola on Sunday in the hands of Katie Walsh running in the colours of Mullins' wife, Jackie.

Not seen since pulling up in the Grand National, he won by a distance but is unable to run at Cheltenham in March as he won a race worth more than 16,000 after June 2, 2011.

Patrick Mullins, his father's assistant, said: "The plan is to go to Leopardstown with him on Hennessy day, February 9.

"When I spoke to Weatherbys I didn't get a definitive answer about whether he could run in England but at the moment we're not bothered about that, we're just taking it one race at a time.

"I remember Katie Walsh had a horse a few years ago she wanted to ride at Aintree but that wasn't qualified.

"Quel Esprit was disappointing last year and we just felt it was an avenue we could take advantage of with him. There's some smart hunters in Ireland, though, Salsify, On The Fringe and Tammys Hill.

"It would be unusual for a horse on the downgrade like him to go and win the big ones but if he gives me a few decent spins I'll be happy."