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Mullins in no Hurri' to decide


WILLIE MULLINS opened his gates to a larger portion of the media yesterday as it's less than three weeks before the start of the Cheltenham Festival for which he is 2/5 to be crowned leading trainer.

The champion trainer has been keeping his cards close to his chest with regards to where some of his runners may or may not pitch up at the Festival and there was little or no diversion from that approach with plans for the likes of Annie Power and Un De Sceaux to be made much closer to the meeting.

He even added that dual Cheltenham winner Champagne Fever, earmarked for the Arkle, could be opted to run in a different race, as is the case with most of his novices.

There was also no retraction on his feelings about two-time Champion Hurdle winner Hurricane Fly, who Mullins is hoping can win that race again "for the horse's own sake", having failed to receive the credit for his achievements that many feel he deserves.

"I think what's happened with Hurricane Fly is that he missed his second Champion Hurdle (third in 2012) and I think he lost a lot of fans then. Any time you can win a Champion Hurdle – and he's won it twice – that's a fair performance.

"Maybe, visually, he's not as impressive, but I haven't really thought of it that way, I just thought, 'Great, he's won it', and I didn't say he's won it badly or it was a bad Champion Hurdle. But that's sport, everyone has an opinion."

Mullins continued: "He missed two Cheltenhams through simple enough injuries that you could have kept going if they were other horses, but when I have a good one, I'll mind it.

"I would love him to win again at Cheltenham for the horse's sake, he deserves it.

"He missed two Cheltenhams and then wasn't right the year he got beaten. He has great fight and aggression that make him stand out."

Hurricane Fly recorded a 19th Grade One win when winning the Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown last month and with a lot of talk about tactics of how the Champion Hurdle will be run, Mullins admitted he didn't mind either way.

"I'm not worried about the pace of the race. So far, whatever way the race is run, he has been able to cope with that and it's wonderful to have a horse like that."

Along with Hurricane Fly, Mullins also has Annie Power and Un De Sceaux in contention to run in the Champion Hurdle.

But while 'The Fly' is definitely being aimed in that direction, the trainer sees the other two as horses for the future. "I'm looking at Un De Sceaux and Annie Power as the future not the present – Hurricane Fly is the present – and for any of those two to take him on would be a huge task for them, I think."

Of Annie Power, he said: "Has she ever met a real Champion Hurdle horse? Every time she has gone a longer trip has been good, she has been to Cheltenham and has travelled well to England three times, but then you've got to ask yourself what else will be running in the races she is entered for and I hope when it comes to the last minute that things will just fall into place. You are looking at the Champion Hurdle and thinking that four or five horses are going to be very hard to beat and you look at the World Hurdle and think one or two horses are going to be hard to beat and you look at the Mares Hurdle and you have a very hard horse to beat there so... "

When asked Annie Power's optimum trip, he added with a wry smile: "I don't know how good she is and I don't know her optimum trip. I'm surprised she is hurdling for a second season and her next two runs will determine if she stays hurdling or goes chasing, I would imagine.

"I'm not worried about the pace of the race. So far, whatever way the race is run, he has been able to cope with that and it's wonderful to have a horse like that."

Regarding Un De Sceaux, he said: "He is another horse I haven't made any decision on yet either and we'll just see how he comes out of his run at Gowran Park before we do anything."