Sceaux bids to bolster reputation

Willie Mullins' exciting French recruit Un De Sceaux has his next test when he lines-up at Navan on Sunday.

The six-year-old has created a big impression with facile all-the-way wins in his three starts over the smaller obstacles since joining the Mullins team.

He holds an entry in the BHP Insurance Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown later this month, and is expected to be given an engagement in the Stan James Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham, for which he is as short as 12-1 with Coral.

The trainer's son, Patrick, explained the reasoning behind this latest assignment in the Follow Navan On Facebook Hurdle at the County Meath course .

"This would be by far his toughest race and dad is trying to get as much experience into him as he can before he has to step him up in grade," he said.

"We'd obviously be disappointed if he got beaten but this is another step up on what he's beaten so far.

"He's a lot more relaxed this year, at home anyway. In his races he has a high cruising speed which puts other horses out of their comfort zones.

"He's very exciting to watch and I'd imagine he's the same to ride, but this is another step up the ladder."

Just three rivals take him on including Flaxen Flare, whose trainer Gordon Elliott believes last season's Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle winner will struggle to give Mullins' charge 4lb.

"If Willie's horse stands up he'll take all the beating," said Elliott.

Foildubh lowered the colours of another Mullins' French import Rubi Ball over hurdles at Thurles in November and aims to repeat the trick for owner/trainer John Ryan having been sixth in the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas.

Akatara from Michael Bowe's stable completes the quartet.