Mullins happy Quevega is in good order ahead of her tilt at history
Willie Mullins is confident Quevega has arrived at Cheltenham as good as ever ahead of her bid for an unprecedented sixth consecutive victory in the OLBG Mares' Hurdle.
The incredible 10-year-old joined five-times Gold Cup hero Golden Miller as the Festival's joint-winning-most horse when overcoming adversity to raise the roof at Prestbury Park last year, having almost come down when hampered by another horse during the race.
As she has done for the last four years, Quevega is making her first appearance of the season.
Ireland's champion trainer, who also saddles Glens Melody in the race, says getting his wonder-mare to her peak without the aid of a prep run is a task he relishes
“Quevega looks good, as does Glens Melody, and they both appear to have travelled over well,” Mullins said. “She was well ahead of schedule this year, so much so I was contemplating giving her a run at Punchestown.
“My owners don't want to breed from her, they want to race. As a trainer I find it as satisfying as anything to produce a horse to go back there year after year. When they have ability, you mind that ability and pick the races.”
Glens Melody has won successive Listed prizes in testing conditions at Warwick, but Mullins feels ground conditions could be detrimental to her chance.
He said: “Glens Melody has been to England three times this season and has won twice. She's in good form, but the drying ground would be against her.”
Ruby Walsh, who has ridden Quevega to each of her Festival triumphs, said: “She's in really good form and even just to get to Cheltenham six years in a row is unbelievable. I'd say she's in good nick.”
Highland Retreat gave Harry Fry his first winner and the young trainer admits he would thrilled if she can pick up minor honours.
“She has done nothing but improve,” Fry said. “We're all trying to beat one mare, she can't keep on winning, but if we finished second to a legend like her, we'd be over the moon. She has come a long way since being my first winner, and has improved 20lb this year alone.”
Second in the ratings behind Quevega is John Quinn's Cockney Sparrow, runner-up in the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle earlier in the season but last seen falling behind Annie Power at Doncaster.
Doyly Carte filled the runner-up spot that day and though she was well beaten at Kelso a month ago, trainer Donald McCain still remains confident she can bounce back.
Down Ace is unbeaten in five starts for Fergal O'Brien and won a bumper at Cheltenham last April.
A native of Limerick, the Gloucestershire trainer said: “She has won all five starts for me, including a Listed race at Taunton, so she deserves her chance.”