Willie Mullins: once again heads to Cheltenham with a formidable team of contenders. Photograph: Glyn Kirk/AFP/Getty Images
1.30- Sky Bet Supreme Novices Hurdle
Facile Vega (W Mullins)…..9-4 Fav
Marine Nationale (B Connell)….7-2
Il Etait Temps (W Mullins)…..6-1
Hunters Yarn (W Mullins)…..12-1
Diverge (W Mullins)…..12-1
High Definition (J O’Brien)…..16-1
Doctor Bravo (G Elliott)…..16-1
Dark Raven (W Mullins)…..18-1
# Facile Vega presents an immediate festival quandary. The evidence of his spectacular blowout at the Dublin Racing Festival contrasts massively with Willie Mullins’s sky-high opinion of a horse he has described as the most exciting he’s trained in years. Blaming Paul Townend for getting the pace wrong at Leopardstown was a notable expression of the trainer’s faith. Tourist Attraction in 1995 was Mullins’s first ever festival winner as a trainer and the first of seven in this race. Marine Nationale is unbeaten and a reasonable alternative to the week’s first big ‘talking horse’.
2.10- Sporting Life Arkle Trophy
El Fabiolo (W Mullins)…..11-10 Fav
Dysart Dynamo (W Mullins)…..8-1
Saint Roi (W Mullins)…..16-1
# This shapes as the festival’s first major head-to-head, an Anglo-Irish face-off between El Fabiolo and Jonbon. They could hardly come into the race on the back of more contrasting warm-ups. Jonbon all but fell home at Warwick while El Fabiolo was spectacular in the Irish Arkle. Even a bad blunder four out couldn’t shake his high cruising speed. A similar blunder around here will be costly. But the Irish headline act could be exceptional.
2.50- Ultima Handicap Chase
The Goffer (G Elliott)…..10-1
Adamantly Chosen (W Mullins)….14-1
Fastorslow (M Brassil)….10-1
# Since the turn of the century there have been just two Irish-trained winners. The Goffer got a vintage Davy Russell spin to win at Leopardstown last month and ran on well enough to suggest the step back up to three miles shouldn’t be a problem. Last year’s winner Corach Rambler is back for another crack ahead of a potential Grand National tilt. It will spell bad news for the home team this week if the raiders come out on top in the first handicap.
3.30- Unibet Champion Hurdle
Paul Townend and State Man win The Matheson Hurdle from Vauban and Danny Mullins at Leopardstown in December. Photograph: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images
State Man (W Mullins)…..5-1
Vauban (W Mullins)…..12-1
Pied Piper (G Elliott)…..66-1
# A race all about Constitution Hill. If he lives up to his reputation it could be a landmark moment in festival history. Nicky Henderson’s runner looks ‘bombproof’ in terms of temperament and he has never been seriously asked a question in his unbeaten track career. State Man is the obvious threat and in a typical year would look a worthy winner. This however threatens to be anything but a typical renewal.
4.10- Close Bros Mares Hurdle
Honeysuckle (H de Bromhead)…..9-4 Fav
Echoes In Rain (W Mullins)……10-1
Brandy Love (W Mullins)…….6-1
Queens Brook (G Elliott)….12-1
Shewearsitwell (W Mullins)…..16-1
# Whatever the rights ands wrongs of Honeysuckle not getting her shot at a Champion Hurdle hat-trick, the impact of this hugely popular mare ending her career on a winning note will be massive. Winner of this race in 2020, there is a school of thought that although she has lost her unbeaten record this season, both performances were up to scratch in terms of ratings. Her old rival Epatante is in here too although the rising star Love Envoi could end up proving a spoilsport.
4.50- Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle
Tekao (W Mullins)……11-4 Fav
Byker (C Byrnes) ……8-1
Sir Allen (A Slattery)……12-1
Ludus (G Elliott)…..16-1
Risk Belle (W Mullins)…..8-1
# Those who have latched onto the Tekao bandwagon might keep in mind how this is a rare festival race Willie Mullins has yet to win. Even the apparent ‘good thing’ Gaelic Warrior got pipped a year ago in a race always liable to throw up a big-priced winner. Jeff Kidder was 80-1 two years ago. Sir Allen has impressed since switched to jumping and has form that ties in with the Triumph candidate Blood Destiny.
5.30- National Hunt Chase
Gaillard Du Mesnil (W Mullins)…..11-8 Fav
Mahler Mission (J McConnell)……5-1
Churchstonewarrior (J Sweeney)……8-1
Chemical Energy (G Elliott)…..8-1
Minella Crooner (G Elliott)….12-1
# The festival’s longest race has become a much higher quality contest in recent times and last year’s winner Stattler is a Gold Cup contender later in the week. That doesn’t mean it’s been a good race for favourites – none have won in the last decade. Gaillard Du Mesnil is a Grade One winner but doesn’t strike as one to take short odds about. Gordon Elliott’s impressive race record makes Chemical Energy interesting.
1.30- Ballymore Novices Hurdle
Gaelic Warrior (W Mullins)…….4-1
Impaire Et Passe (W Mullins)……5-2 Fav
Good Land (B Connell)…..4-1
Champ Kiely (W Mullins)…..9-1
Inthepocket (H de Bromhead)……12-1
Favori Du Champdou (G Elliott)….16-1
# Hermes Allen is a rare cross-channel Grade One novice with a big chance and impressed in the Challow Hurdle at Newbury last time. The problem is that winners of that race have a dire record in this. Irish hopes will be high and Good Land impressed at the Dublin Racing Festival. He achieved more there than Impaire Et Passe did at Punchestown in the Moscow Flyer but the latter still appears more fancied than the Grade One winner Champ Kiely to give Willie Mullins a sixth win in the race. Gaelic Warrior’s habit of jumping right could again prove a problem.
2.10- Brown Advisory Novices Chase
Gerri Colombe (G Elliott)……5-2 Fav
Sir Gerhard (W Mullins)…..9-2
Ramillies (W Mullins)……8-1
James Bu Berlais (W Mullins)…..16-1
# Soft ground conditions appear important to the unbeaten Gerri Colombe. The likable sort has won twice at the top level this season and showed a good attitude at Sandown last time. That profile shapes more encouragingly than last year’s Ballymore winner Sir Gerhard whose jumping didn’t entirely convince on his belated introduction to fences at Gowran. Jumping could also prove an issue for the leading local hope Thyme Again although, if it holds up, he has the quality to be a danger to all.
2.50- Coral Cup
Run For Oscar (C Byrnes)……8-1
HMS Seahorse (P Nolan)…..9-1
Winter Fog (W Mullins)…17-2
Beacon Edge (N Meade)……20-1
# Always hugely competitive which helps explain only two wining favourites since the turn of the century. Commander Of Fleet thrived on the very testing ground a year ago to win at 50-1. The task of repelling the Irish raiders has fallen to Nicky Henderson in recent years but it is Camprond from Philip Hobbs’ yard who’s to the fore of the betting this time. HMS Seahorse impressed on his last start and this second season hurdler could still be progressing on the back of a gelding operation.
3.30- Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase
Energumene: last year’s champion is left with plenty to prove this time around. Photograph: David Davies/PA
Energumene (W Mullins)…..6-4 Fav
Gentleman De Mee (W Mullins)…..6-1
# All sorts of excuses were made for Energumene’s course defeat in January behind Editeur Du Gite and Edwardstone, including a colour change to the paint on the fences. Nevertheless, last year’s champion is left with plenty to prove. Ground conditions will be vital to his stable companion Gentleman De Mee who bounced back to form at Leopardstown last month. Edwardstone will be tough to beat with Arkle winners having an outstanding record in the two-mile championship. An intriguing prospect.
4.10- Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase
Delta Work (G Elliott)….Evs Fav
Galvin (G Elliott)……9-4
Gin On Lime (H de Bromhead)….16-1
Foxy Jacks (M Morris)….33-1
Mortal (G Elliott)…..40-1
Franco De Port (W Mullins)…..7-1
# Delta Work proved the ultimate ‘spoilsport’ a year ago when denying his stable companion Tiger Roll his perfect career swansong. Along with another proven Grade One winner, Galvin, he gives Gordon Elliott a massive chance of equalling End Bolger’s race record haul of five wins. Irish-trained horses have failed to win this marathon contest just three times in its 18-year history. It’s hard to see that trend being interrupted.
4.50- Johnny Henderson Grand Annual
Andy Dufresne (G Elliott)…..8-1
Final Orders (G Cromwell)…..8-1
Coeur Sublime (H de Bromhead)…..16-1
Dads Lad (W Mullins)……14-1
Dinoblue (W Mullins)……6-1 Fav
# JP McManus has won this four times and could hold a strong hand again in what is the oldest festival contest of all. Andy Dufresne has long shaped as having a big handicap within his grasp but hasn’t delivered yet. Dinoblue flopped in the mares novice hurdle here a year ago but has form this season with the high-class Impervious. Final Orders has been in prolific form this season and mightn’t be finished yet.
5.30- Weatherbys Champion Bumper
It’s For Me (W Mullins)……5-2 Fav
A Dream To Share (J Kiely)……7-2
Chapeau Du Soleil (W Mullins)…..9-1
Fact To File (W Mullins)….8-1
Western Diego (W Mullins)…12-1
Better Days Ahead (G Elliott)…..10-1
Encanto Bruno (J McConnell)…..18-1
Pouor Les Filles (G Elliott)….16-1
Westport Cove (W Mullins)……16-1
Fascile Mode (T Mullins)……18-1
King Of Kingsfield (G Elliott)….16-1
# Willie Mullins is trying to secure a ‘Lucky 13th’ victory in a race he has dominated like no other. His son Patrick will try to equal Ruby Walsh’s record haul of four victories as a rider. Facile Vega struck for the champion amateur last year but he’s one of just three winning favourites in the last 15 years. Mullins winners come at all sorts of odds including the 25-1 shots Briar Hill and Relegate. If there’s one to upset the Mullins bandwagon this time it could be Better Days Ahead but Fact To File is no back number either.
1.30- Turners Novice Chase
Mighty Potter (G Elliott)….5-4 Fav
Banbridge (J O’Brien)…..4-1
Appreciate It (W Mullins)….6-1
# Those tempted to take very short odds about Mighty Potter might keep in mind how jumping is the name of the game: in the last two year both Envoi Allen and Galopin Des Champs have exited dramatically in this race. Mighty Potter’s credentials are hard to argue with however, a dual Grade One winner over fences with the promise of much more to come. Banbridge ran into a real one in El Fabiolo at two miles last time and will relish both a step up in trip and a return to Cheltenham where he’s a proven winner.
2.10- Pertemps Final
Percival Legolais (G Cromwell).….4-1 Fav
Shoot First (C Byrnes)…..9-2
Maxxum (G Elliott)…..11-2
The Bosses Oscar (G Elliott)…..8-1
Good Time Jonny (T Martin)……16-1
Level Neverending (G Elliott)…..16-1
# Leopardstown’s Christmas qualifier is usually an informative contest for this and Maxxum trotted up to the tune of 16 lengths. Gordon Elliott has a fine record in this ultra-competitive handicap and although Maxxum was well beaten last month he endured a troubled passage through the race won by Percival Legolais. Shoot First is a course winner who’s been kept for this since and layers will tread warily around the Charles Byrnes runner. Walking On Air is a home hope to reckon with.
2.50- Ryanair Chase
Blue Lord (W Mullins)……5-1
Janidil (W Mullins)……9-2
Fury Road (G Elliott)……6-1
Envoi Allen (H de Bromhead)……8-1
# A race that looks to revolve around Shishkin. Nicky Henderson’s star proved he’s no back-number with a spectacular return to form in last month’s Ascot Chase. Maybe that race is closer to the festival than ideal, but this race looks a safe option compared to going for the Gold Cup. In Allaho’s absence Willie Mullins relies on Blue Lord and Janidil although there is a ‘bounce’ element to the latter after his recent Gowran success. Fury Road looks to be at his best distance and may prove to be the biggest threat to the favourite.
3.30- Paddy Power Stayers Hurdle
Donal McInerney riding Blazing Khal clear the last to win The Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham last November. Photograph: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images
Blazing Khal (C Byrnes)…….5-2 Fav
Teahupoo (G Elliott)……4-1
Home By The Lee (J O’Brien)…..9-2
Flooring Porter (G Cromwell)….9-1
Ashdale Bob (J Harrington)…..14-1
# A decade after winning with Solwhit, Charles Byrnes is back for another crack at the Stayers crown with Blazing Khal. His return from a long absence at Navan last month was impressive but a reported setback since then has hardly helped his chance. Flooring Porter is chasing a hat-trick in this race but he too has had a setback this season and hadn’t looked quite as effective prior to that. Teahupoo proved his stamina last time while Home By The Lee has proved a revelation this season. Joseph O’Brien’s horse could be the answer.
4.10- Magners Plate
So Scottish (E Mullins)…..5-1 Fav
Fastorslow (M Brassil)…..10-1
I Am Maximus (W Mullins)…..12-1
Midnight Run (J O’Brien)…..20-1
# Novices have a good record in a race formerly known as the Mildmay of Flete, including The Shunter who won for Emmet Mullins and JP McManus in 2021. McManus has purchased So Scottish since he was runner-up at Ascot in November on his last start. The horse had won his previous three and could be ahead of the handicapper still. Favourites have won the race three times in the last five years.
4.50- Jack de Bromhead Mares Novice Hurdle
Ashroe Diamond (W Mullins)…..3-1
Lot Of Joy ( W Mullins)…..5-1
Magical Zoe (H de Bromhead)…..10-1
Halka Du Tabert (G Elliott)……..10-1
Princess Zoe (T Mullins)…..8-1
# Take the hurdles out and the Group One winner Princess Zoe would be a ‘mortal lock’ for many. She dead-heated on her debut over flights at Punchestown and has to step up significantly in this new discipline. Willie Mullins has won five of the seven renewals including with the shock 50-1 winner Eglantine Du Seuil in 2019. Ashroe Diamond holds obvious claims. Lot Of Joy was a Scandinavian classic winner on the flat and has secured enough useful jumping experience to make her a big player in a race run in memory of the late Jack de Bromhead.
5.20- Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir
Stumptown (G Cromwell)……3-1 Fav
Mr Incredible (W Mullins)……9-2
Dunboyne (G Elliott)……8-1
Folcano (G Elliott)……14-1
Angel’s Dawn (S Curling)….9-1
# Gordon Elliott has a fine record in this race while Jamie Codd has ridden the winner four times. Dunboyne’s narrow loss to Carefully Selected in the Thyestes Chase puts him in the mix although Stumptown holds clear claims too. The Cromwell runner won well at Thurles before scoring at Sandown last month. Mr Incredible is a dour stayer and will try to give Willie and Patrick Mullins their first wins in the amateur contest. Monbeg Genius is on a roll and looks best of the home team.
1.30- JCB Triumph Hurdle
Lossiemouth (W Mullins)…..5-2
Blood Destiny (W Mullins)….7-4 Fav
Gala Marceau (W Mullins)…..8-1
Comfort Zone (J O’Brien)…..12-1
Zenta (W Mullins)…..16-1
# Willie Mullins has won the juvenile championship twice in the last three years and Irish horses have been successful seven times in the last decade. Even by Mullins’ standards, he looks to have a particularly strong team this time. Lossiemouth was unlucky in running behind Gala Marceau in a Grade One last month but plenty in the Mullins team reckon the comparatively unexposed Blood Destiny is the answer. The home team looks to have it all to do in a race that’s far from the lottery it used to be due to the Boodles earlier in the week.
2.10- McCoy County Hurdle
Filey Bay (E Mullins)…….6-1 Fav
Sharjah (W Mullins)……10-1
Winter Fog (W Mullins)…..8-1
Colonel Mustrard (L Fowler)…..16-1
Fil Dor (G Elliott).…..16-1
Fils D’oudairies (G Elliott)…..16-1
Zanahiyr (G Elliott)…..20-1
Imagine (G Elliott)….20-1
# State Man and Saint Roi were two Willie Mullins runners making their handicap debuts when justifying significant support in this. It bucked the trend of handicap experience being a big plus. Filey Bay secured some of that on his last start and now runs for the McManus team while Winter Fog also has experience. On his first start for Willie Mullins he won easily at Leopardstown over Christmas and there could be more to come. Gin Coco looks likely to be a leading contender for the home team
2.50- Albert Bartlett Hurdle
Corbetts Cross (E Mullins)……3-1 Fav
Embassy Gardens (W Mullins)…..5-1
Sandor Clegane (P Nolan)…..7-1
Three Card Brag (G Elliott)….8-1
Hiddenvalley Lake (H de Bromhead)…..8-1
Monty’s Star (H de Bromhead)………10-1
Absolute Notions (G Elliott)…..10-1
Cool Survivor (G Elliott)….14-1
Shanbally Kid (W Mullins)…..16-1
Dawn Rising (J O’Brien)……20-1
# A race that rewards stamina but also a touch of class. Minella Indo landed it in 2019 while Penhill was successful two years previously. Hiddenvalley Lake has looked a likely contender for some time and continues to do so despite being edged out by his stable companion Monty’s Star at Clonmel last time. Corbetts Cross proved his stamina earlier in the season and his class by winning at the minimum trip at Grade Two level recently. Absolute Notions chased home Good Land at Leopardstown and might well relish the step up in trip.
3.30- Boodles Gold Cup
Galopin Des Champs: has enjoyed a foot-perfect campaign and is confidently expected by connections to stay the trip first time of asking. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA
Galopin Des Champs (W Mullins)……6-4 Fav
A Plus Tard (H de Bromhead)……6-1
Stattler (W Mullins)…..10-1
Noble Yeats (E Mullins)…..8-1
Conflated (G Elliott)…..10-1
Minella Indo (H de Bromhead)…..14-1
Hewick (A Hanlon)…..16-1
# A Plus Tard put up a notably impressive Gold Cup-winning performance in 2022 but has been dogged by misfortune this season. It will be a notable training performance by Henry de Bromhead to get him back to the same level. In contrast, Galopin Des Champs has enjoyed a foot-perfect campaign and is confidently expected by connections to stay the trip first time of asking. The former ‘lunatic’ Conflated is interesting at the distance too although the big threat to the Irish favourite may be Bravemansgame. He looks a very different proposition to last season.
4.10- St James’s Place Hunters Chase
Vaucelet (D Christie)……7-4 Fav
Ferns Lock (D Christie)…..5-1
Winged Leader (D Christie)…7-1
Billaway (W Mullins)….6-1
Chris’s Dream (H de Bromhead)….10-1
Brain Power (W Ewing)…14-1
Rockey’s Howaya (D Queally)…..16-1
# Billaway is back for a fourth try at the amateur race highlight having finally got the job done last year, dramatically overhauling Winged Leader in the final strides. Denied on that occasion, Co Fermanagh-based trainer David Christie is back with a powerful hand topped by Vaucelet who was also edged out by Billaway at Punchestown last Spring. Brain Power has been in fine form for Warren Ewing and could provide some betting value on decent ground.
4.50- Mrs Paddy Power Mares Chase
Allegorie De Vassy (W Mullins)…..5-4 Fav
Impervious (C Murphy)……5-2
Jeremys Flame (G Cromwell)…..7-1
Magic Daze (H de Bromhead)…..10-1
Riviere D’etel (G Elliott)…………10-1
Elimay (W Mullins)……12-1
# Willie Mullins has won both renewals of this race to date with Colreevy and Elimay. His prime contender this time is Allegorie De Vassy. She’s prone to making an error but in terms of natural talent definitely looks the one to beat. This contest has supplied a pair of classic finishes to date and Impervious can push the Mullins No 1 all the way.
5.20- Martin Pipe Conditional Handicap Hurdle
Spanish Harlem (W Mullins)……6-1 Fav
Imagine (G Elliott)……10-1
Hauturiere (W Mullins)…….12-1
Sa Fureur (G Elliott)…..12-1
San Salvador (J O’Brien)…..16-1
Three Card Brag (G Elliott)…..8-1
# The quartet of winners Willie Mullins has had include the top-class pair Sir Des Champs (2011) and Galopin Des Champs a decade later. Spanish Harlem may yet prove to be at a similar level but he’s very short for a horse whose jumping has looked novice-like. Gordon Elliott has won this twice and Imagine looks a more battle-hardened type with scope to progress. Banbridge a year ago was Joseph O’Brien’s second winner and his representatives have to be rated.
Brian O'Connor is the racing correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Tipping Point column
© 2023 The Irish Times DAC
© 2023 The Irish Times DAC
Willie Mullins: once again heads to Cheltenham with a formidable team of contenders. Photograph: Glyn Kirk/AFP/Getty Images