Willie Mullins to unleash French recruit in Champion Hurdle
- Willie Mullins will throw new recruit James Du Berlais into the Champion Hurdle
- Former ante-post favourite Saint Roi will miss the meeting
- James Du Berlais has been backed in from 50s to 16/1 in the last week
- Honeysuckle is the favourite, ahead of Epatante and Goshen
Willie Mullins has ruled Saint Roi out of the Champion Hurdle. (Getty)
At the start of the season, it seemed Saint Roi would carry Willie Mullins' hopes into the 2021 Champion Hurdle.
Last year's County Hurdle winner topped the betting for Tuesday's Championship race after winning on his reappearance. Sadly, Saint Roi performances have steadily declined in Grade One company, and Mullins has decided to pull his hurdler from the firing line.
"Saint Roi is out of Cheltenham." Mullins told the Racing Post. "I had a chat with JP (McManus) the other day and we came to the conclusion that we're not happy with him going to Cheltenham, so he won't run."
"He just hasn't gone forward this season. He's had one or two little niggles and I think JP was happy just to let him get over those."
Stepping in to fill the void left by Saint Roi in the Champion Hurdle market is James Du Berlais, who joined Willie Mullins' yard from France at the start of the year.
During his time in France, James Du Berlais won four of his 13 races between two and two-and-a-half miles, collecting a Grade Three in October before losing out narrowly as the 2/5 favourite in the Grade One Prix Renaud du Vivier.
"We've been watching James Du Berlais in France for the last 18 months and trying to buy him." Mullins revealed.
"They wouldn't sell and they were looking for a lot of money. Then, out of the blue, Simon (Munir]) and Isaac (Souede) stepped in and did a deal with the trainer in France. The deal was for the horse to come over to Ireland after his four-year-old season was finished and that's what happened. They rang me and asked would I like to train him. That was a very pleasant surprise to get that call.
"He's been bought as a novice chaser, but let's run him in the Champion Hurdle and see what he's like. I was surprised when I saw his rating of 167. That really puts him in the Champion Hurdle picture. He jumps, he stays, he's got everything you want."
"He can be a tough ride from what I saw of him in France, but we'll know a lot more about him in the next two weeks because we will be asking him questions that we have not asked him before. It's a bit like French Aseel, we're going to get stuck into both of them very soon."
James Du Berlais was available at 50/1 in the Champion Hurdle betting last week. However, after Mullins' interview with the Racing Post, he's been heavily backed, and Unibet now quoting a top price of 16/1.
Honeysuckle remains Unibet's 5/2 favourite, ahead of Epatante at 11/4. The leading British contender is now Goshen, who was cut into 4/1 after romping to victory over Song For Someone in the Kingwell Hurdle on Sunday.