Willie Mullins: leading 2023 Cheltenham Festival contenders – Racing TV

By Nick Seddon
No trainer in Cheltenham Festival history has more winners at the great meeting than Willie Mullins and the perennial Irish champion trainer bids to add to his 88 victories at Prestbury Park in March with a customarily strong team.
Mullins sent out a record 10 winners at last year's fixture and, in a media visit organised by The Jockey Club on Monday, opened the doors of his County Carlow stables ahead of the Festival in just five weeks' time.
“I haven’t even thought about beating the 10 winners we had last year," said Mullins.
“Every inch of ground is fought for at Cheltenham from start to finish and everyone thinks they have a chance. Nothing is given, but that is what is what makes it special and what makes it hard to win there.

“People expect us to have winners at Cheltenham, but we never go there expecting and it’s a relief when we get a winner and then hopefully one or two more.
“The main thing is that horses and jockeys come back safe, our owners have fun and we have fun.
"I am surprised at how much I have got out of training – it’s a different aspect to riding but I have fantastic clients who enjoy racing and I and all of us here enjoy what we do. I think I’m enjoying it more than ever really.”
Race: Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle
I had resigned when I saw what was happening going past the winning post first time round. I said 'unless he's an absolute aeroplane, they can't keep that up'.
Someone said the time going to the fourth or fifth hurdle was a furlong quicker than the Irish Champion Hurdle – it was headless what went on.
I was disappointed what happened, not that he was beaten as every horse gets beaten at some stage.
Paul (Townend) knows himself and he'll adjust things for the next day on the different horses that he rode. When you go to big races like that you learn a lot about your horse and he'll have all that sorted for the next day.
It's not a comment on Paul's riding ability, it was just a decision he made on the day and it didn't work out on the day. It's just part of the job.
It's like a footballer going to goal and there's a player on the right that he doesn't see. It's just a bad decision in a game and play moves on. Paul gets things right 99 per cent of the time.
There'll be plenty of pace in the Supreme Novice and I haven't contemplated changing (plans) yet.
I think at the moment we're all set to go the way we planned, if the horse recovers from his race yesterday. He had a very, very hard race and it will take a fair bit of recovering from. We'll need all the time we have.
Race: Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle
I've always thought he was fair horse, which is why we ran him in the races we did last year and he ended up being a novice for this year.
What's disappointed me about him this year was his jumping – he just wasn't putting it together. Even at the Dublin Racing Festival he made a mistake at the first, but Danny said to me when he turned down the back he pinged his hurdles and put it all together.
I know the two in front made things easier for him, but he's going to keep learning and once he gets it all together who knows how good he could be?
He's very keen, but once he learns to settle I think his jumping will come together and he'll improve again. I think he's going to be a proper Grade One horse.
Race: Sporting Life Arkle Novices' Chase
He was very disappointing in the Irish Arkle and we've got to figure him out. I just thought he ran very flat and maybe he just mightn't have recovered from his big effort before (at Naas).
He could step up in trip. We thought that all the time and we were amazed at what he was doing over two miles in the beginning, but maybe now it's looking like he needs to go up. It (Turners) is likely on yesterday's performance, but we'll just have to see how he comes out of the race.
Race: Sporting Life Arkle Novices' Chase
He did everything right at Leopardstown and his run against Jonbon last year puts him right in the picture, I think. It was only his second run for us and Jonbon was in his own backyard whereas we had to travel over to England, so he goes there with a huge chance.
Race: Unibet Champion Hurdle
Horses for courses is the old saying and State Man has won around the track, which is huge in our preparation.
We're looking forward to it and I'm sure they're looking forward to it. There are other horses in the race as well, but at the moment State Man looks to be the leading Irish contender and Constitution Hill looks to be the English one.
Constitution Hill could be a bit of a freak and maybe we're going to be unlucky to come against a horse like that, but it's all there to play for at the moment. Fingers crossed we all get there and we get to compete.
From everything he's shown us all the time and the way he's improving we think he's good enough.
We're living the dream at the moment anyway. If you beat Honeysuckle around Leopardstown you'd normally be thinking there's only one more step to go, but Constitution Hill is there and a few more too.
Constitution Hill looks the full package. He's got speed, he can jump and he stays and he's going to be very tough to beat.
Race: Ballymore Novices' Hurdle
He was very impressive to win a handicap like that and I thought it was a great trial for maybe going for the Ballymore – that would look like the sort of race we might go for at the moment.
He could go for the Supreme, but if I was to make a decision today the Ballymore is where I would be going. We'll see what happens in the meantime.
To me the obvious thing to do was go for a handicap at Leopardstown, rather than taking on Facile Vega and Il Etait Temps. It was either Leopardstown or the Betfair Hurdle and I felt we had a better chance going to Cheltenham if we ran him at the Dublin Racing Festival, rather than going to Newbury.
I think it would have been a sin off his mark to run in a novice race before Cheltenham. I'm thinking Ballymore, unless he gets away with murder and gets into the County Hurdle, but I doubt it!
Race: Ballymore Novices' Hurdle
He looks a bit special too. He could run over two miles, but you'd probably be looking at going further (in the Ballymore).
I was certainly thinking that last week, but now with Gaelic Warrior stepping up again it's nice to have the choice. We haven't sat down yet and gone through what happened over this weekend, but with his temperament I'd say he could do either race.
Race: Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase
His hurdle form is good enough to go anywhere, but at the moment I'd be thinking longer trips, just going that bit slower.
Over a longer trip there's more jumps and more opportunity to make a mistake, but I just think for him, with his lack of experience, we'll possibly take a chance in the Brown Advisory. That's the way I'm thinking at the moment anyway, but nothing is set in stone.
Race: Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase
It was great to finally get a Champion Chase last year and I think in the Clarence House he just needed the run over those different style of fences.
Even though he'd schooled over them at home, sometimes a horse just need to get out on the track and see the thing and I'm sure that experience will stand to him when it comes to jumping off in the Champion Chase.
There's no such thing as a slowly-run Champion Chase and I think that's going to suit us. The Clarence House was a very tactical race and I think a few jockeys might change tactics the next day.
We learnt a lot I think and I'm happy and Paul is happy he'll improve a lot from that day.
Race: Ryanair Chase
I'm very happy with Allaho. He's doing some fast work.
Monkfish is just a little bit behind him, but at the moment they're both going well, and Klassical Dream is another one that comes back into the picture. It's going to be touch and go whether they make it, but certainly I'm much happier with Allaho than any of the others.
I think he's a specialist Ryanair chaser. A lot of people want to see him in a Gold Cup, but I'd be more worried about him going three and a quarter miles than I would about Galopin Des Champs.
Allaho is so spectacular over the Ryanair trip. I think he could go back to two miles if you wanted to, but with his style of racing it might break his heart if he got beaten and we don't want to do that.
Race: JCB Triumph Hurdle
He is very good and I just felt it was only three weeks since his last run, he's only four and it was going to be a hard race if he ran in the Spring Juvenile. He'll go there a bit fresher and he's a fair sort. Lossiemouth was just very unlucky and it's going to be a very hot division this year I think. Gala Marceau is her own worst enemy as she pulled so hard but she’s going to improve as well.
Race: Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup
He did everything right at Leopardstown. I was very happy with what he did and Paul was very happy that he jumped and came through when he wanted him to.
He felt he had plenty of horse under him passing through the line and that's important because there's another two furlongs in Cheltenham.
When he won over three miles as a novice over hurdles, I was never worried about his stamina after that. It's just all about temperament that the horse learns to settle during a race and he's done that in his last two runs.
Paul is much happier with him and has got confidence now that he can use him in a race when he wants to use him. The horse is becoming the complete package.
We have teamed up with Leopardstown Racecourse to offer you the chance to win a VIP Race and Stay Experience to the Dublin Racing Festival in February 2024. The package includes a three-night stay at The Intercontinental Hotel and Premier Admission for both days. Please click HERE to enter and for more details.
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