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Cheltenham Festival hero Black Hercules to return to points

The Willie Mullins pair of former Cheltenham Festival winner Black Hercules and Grand National 12th Le Mercurey, head the 101 horses that have been issued with a hunter certificate this week.

Black Hercules started his career in point-to-points when he won a four-year-old maiden at Dromahane on his debut, and it will be those same colours of Patrick Mullins that he sports once again when he returns back between the flags over six years later.

Now a ten-year-old, the son of Heron Islands has been to three Cheltenham Festivals, with his biggest day coming when Ruby Walsh guided him to his three-length defeat of Bristol De Mai in the Grade 1 JLT Novices’ Chase at the 2016 Festival.

His outings in the time since having been very sparse, as he has just seen competitive action on three subsequent occasions, most recently when third to Sizing John at Thurles in January 2017.

Dual Grade 2 winner Le Mercurey will join him from the Mullins stable, and he too will be on something of a comeback mission, having not run since finishing 12th to One For Arthur in the 2017 Aintree Grand National when carrying the Party Politics colours of David and Patricia Thompson.

The French-bred had been bought by the pair before that run, having previously won in Graded company for owners Chris Giles and Colm Donlon, achieving a top rating of 152 after also defeating Bristol De Mai, this time in the Future Champions Novice Chase at Ayr’s Scottish National fixture in 2016 for Paul Nicholls. Still just a nine-year-old, he is now in the ownership of Mullins' wife Jackie.

His former stable mate at Nicholls’ Ditcheat yard, Lac Fontana, returns for the Paurick O’Connor team. The former Grade 1 winner was out of luck in three outings last season, but has enjoyed success in open company at Ballynoe in 2018, whilst Wounded Warrior is another former Graded winner to receive a hunter certificate this year.

Having joined Sam Curling’s yard last year, finishing third in the Punchestown Festival staying chase that he had won a year earlier, in the best of his five outings for the Skehanagh team. At his recent stable tour, Curling indicated that the son of Shantou would start this pointing before contesting some of the better hunter chases in the spring.

Ucello Conti was crowned Champion Hunter Chaser last season, having won three races in that division, including the Joseph O’Reilly Memorial at Fairyhouse, and he joins Vyta Du Roc, as the second horse owned by Simon Munir and Isaac Souede to receive a hunter certificate for the 2019/20 season.

Of the other horses to feature among the 101 horses on the fourth week of hunter certificates, former champion point-to-pointer Anseanachai Cliste returns for Daire McConville, whilst there a further 44 four-year-old’s to add to the depth within that division.

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