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Cheltenham Festival: Noble Yeats will be spot-on for Stayers' bid

Emmet Mullins insists the Paddy Power Stayers' Hurdle is more than just a stepping stone to the Randox Grand National for Noble Yeats.

The nine-year-old was the Aintree hero in 2022 but finished fourth last year when saddled with 11st 11lb in the four-and-a-quarter-mile contest, a 19lb higher mark than the previous year.

Noble Yeats prepped for that title defence by finishing a distant fourth in the Cheltenham Gold Cup and went on to run down the field in the Grand Steeplechase de Paris, leading to a later start to his campaign and a Stayers’ Hurdle bid.

Beaten as an odds-on favourite on his seasonal bow, Noble Yeats roared back to form when edging out Paisley Park in a thrilling finish to the Cleeve Hurdle and Mullins believes that result puts him right in the mix for top honours at the Festival.

He said: "He’s bouncing – he definitely improved a lot from the first time up at Limerick at Christmas. He would have needed that plenty and he definitely improved between then and the Cleeve Hurdle, hopefully he should come on again.

"That was always the plan. He was late back into training as we had such a big campaign last spring and I said to Robert [Waley-Cohen, owner] back in October, we had been put in our place in the Gold Cup last year and I couldn’t see a way past those horses this time around, so we changed direction.

"I’m not saying he’s going to win the Stayers’ Hurdle either but I think he could run a good race in it. I suppose Gordon’s [Elliott] horses are still unexposed, I thought Irish Point was impressive stepping up at Christmas."

While Aintree in April is likely his ultimate aim, Mullins is not compromising on his preparations for the Stayers’.

He added: "It’s a target in it’s own right. It definitely won’t be as