Strength in numbers for Mullins' elite novice crew
Willie Mullins dominates the entries for the Cheltenham Festival's Grade One novice hurdles, although the unveiling of same yesterday did little to clarify his charges' respective targets.
The brilliant champion jumps trainer remains in contention for a tilt at the British championship, and the extent of his equine muscle is evident in the initial names put forward for the elite novices' events.
Of the 64 entries for the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle, Mullins is responsible for 18, headed by Min, Yorkhill and Bellshill. Min, a top-priced 13/8 favourite for the £120,000 two-miler, is also in the Neptune, while Yorkhill and Bellshill are in that, and the Albert Bartlett.
In total, there are 31 Irish entries for the Supreme, with Gordon Elliott's Tombstone, which is engaged alongside Bellshill and Yorkhill at Leopardstown on Saturday, in the two-mile-five-furlong Neptune as well as the two-miler.
Alan King's JP McManus-owned Yanworth continues to be strongly supported for the Neptune, with Coral yesterday hardening his position at the head of the market by cutting him to 13/8 from 7/4.
"Over the last few days, Yanworth has been the best-backed horse for next month's Cheltenham Festival, and is now also figuring in hundreds of ante-post multiples being placed on the event alongside the Mullins hotpots like Un De Sceaux, Faugheen and Douvan," said Simon Clare, Coral Spokesman.
Of the 78 horses in the Neptune, over half, 41, are Irish-based. After Yanworth, Mullins is responsible for the next four in the betting in that, namely Bellshill, Yorkhill, A Toi Phil and Long Dog. According to the markets, the Albert Bartlett is the least likely to make its way to these shores. Barters Hill heads the betting at 3/1, but the lowest-priced Irish horse for the three-miler is Mullins's 12/1 shot, Up For Review. Of the 73 entries, 32 are Irish, of which only 11 are not trained in Closutton.
There is a total of just 11 Irish entries for the Triumph, with Aidan O'Brien responsible for the clear 5/2 favourite, McManus' Ivanovich Gorbatov. Another pencilled in for Leopardstown on Saturday, Ivanovich Gorbatov has also been the subject of sustained ante-post support, to the point that each of the other 53 entries for the juveniles' Grade One can be backed at odds of 12/1 or bigger.
Mullins enjoyed a frustrating foray across the water last Saturday, but he could bid to further his title credentials again at Sandown tomorrow. He has Sempre Medici engaged alongside Nicky Henderson's Peace And Co in the £25,000 Contenders Hurdle.
In the Grade One Scilly Isles Novices' Chase that he won with Gitane Du Berlais last year, he can call on Black Hercules, Pont Alexandre, McKinley, Outlander and Pleasant Company.