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Djakadam set for JLT Chase as Mullins outlines Cheltenham plans

Willie Mullins has been finalising his running plans for the Cheltenham festival and has decided to run Djakadam in the JLT Novices’ Chase. The five-year-old also holds entries in the Arkle and the RSA Chase but Mullins feels this is the right race for the French-bred gelding at this stage of his career.

He was a progressive hurdler, finishing second in a Grade 3 event at Fairyhouse in April and fourth in the Grade 1 Champion Juvenile Hurdle at Punchestown. He made a successful debut over fences at Leopardstown in December, overcoming a couple of minor errors to beat C’Etait Vrai by a length and a quarter.

He was more accomplished in the Grade 2 Killiney Chase at the same course in January, stretching four lengths clear under Ruby Walsh. Mullins feels that he is too young for a gruelling race like the RSA Chase and the Arkle is now too sharp for him.

Mullins has the favourite in both of the other novice events in Champagne Fever and Ballycasey. All three horses carry the colours of Mrs Ricci who has other leading contenders at the meeting including Annie Power (World Hurdle), Vautour (Supreme Novices’ Hurdle) and Arvika Ligeonniere (Champion Chase).

Djakadam could be joined in the JLT by Felix Yonger who represents Andrea and Graham Wylie. He is still in the Arkle but Mullins is leaning towards the JLT with the prospect of the ground drying out during the week.

Felix Yonger struggled in the soft ground at Limerick and Leopardstown on his last two starts. The Arkle takes place on Tuesday with the JLT on Thursday and he showed his liking for faster ground when finishing second to Simonsig here in 2012.

Mullins is happy with the condition of all of his leading festival hopes including Hurricane Fly who bids for a third Champion Hurdle on the opening day. Quevega is on course for her record-breaking attempt at a sixth consecutive win in the David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle on the same day.