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14 Feb 2011 | 19:15
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Mullins branches out with TwiglineHeadlines
Willie Mullins

Twigline is a rare runner at Sandown for Irish champion trainer Willie Mullins as she lines up in Friday's Jane Seymour Mares' Novices' Hurdle.

Despite being sidelined for well over two years, the six-year-old French recruit made a most impressive Irish debut at Fairyhouse in November and now tests the water at Listed level for the first time.

Twigline, who like leading mare Quevega and Thousand Stars is owned by the Hammer and Trowel Syndicate, will be partnered by Ruby Walsh. The leading contender for the home team is undoubtedly the Nicky Henderson-trained Utopie Des Bordes.

A Grade One winner over fences in France, the five-year-old made a fine start for new connections at Doncaster a little over a week ago and is likely to be suited by the step up to two and a half miles at Sandown.

Donald McCain's She Ranks Me is forced to concede weight all round, having already won Listed prizes at Newbury and Haydock. Dual Newton Abbot scorer My Legal Lady takes a significant step up in class and trainer Stuart Howe is just hoping for the best.

He said: "I don't think any of them will like the ground - I'd imagine it's going to be desperate - but they've all go to cope with it. There aren't that many opportunities for our mare and we're throwing her in at the deep end a bit.

"The Mullins horse will probably be a serious horse and then there's the Henderson horse as well. If we can run into the frame I'd be delighted."

The six-runner field is completed by Cracking Lass, who was fifth to Utopie Des Bordes at Doncaster, and Toubeera.

The meeting at the Esher circuit goes ahead as planned after passing a Thursday morning course inspection. A provisional all-chase card had been formulated, but this will no longer be necessary as the hurdles track was found to be fit for racing after just three millimetres of overnight rain.

Andrew Cooper, Sandown head of racing and clerk of the course, said: "We measured around 3.5mm of overnight rain, which was right at the bottom end of what we were expecting. It looks as though the weather has now cleared, and there does not look like being much more rain."

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