Sunday 21 January 2018

Vroum Vroum looks set to motor home while Annie has the Power

Patrick Mullins on Day 1

Vroum Vroum Mag enjoys a roll at Cheltenham yesterday and is backed to extend Willie Mullins’ winning run in the Mares’ Hurdle today. PA
Vroum Vroum Mag enjoys a roll at Cheltenham yesterday and is backed to extend Willie Mullins’ winning run in the Mares’ Hurdle today. PA

Patrick Mullins

Waking up on the first day of Cheltenham is like waking up on Christmas morning as a child - the anxious anticipation is finally over and you hope to reap the rewards of all the hours spent preparing for this special Festival.

The whole year revolves around these four days and since dad's eight winners 12 months ago, we've been itching to get back to test our mettle against the best of Britain and Ireland.

The likes of Douvan and Don Poli make the trip across the water in search of more silverware on the Cotswolds, while future superstars like Min and Limini caught our eye all last year and bid to make their own mark up that famous hill.

People regularly ask if we feel pressure after our record haul in 2015 but we don't really have time to think about it. We're going through a golden patch and we just want to make hay while the sun shines.

We're delighted with the large team we've brought over and things are going as planned but it'll be very difficult to emulate last year. Almost everything (bar Annie Power falling) went right, and it's hard to think that history will repeat itself again.

As with the past few years we have some serious prospects on day one and we'll be hoping to get off a flying start with Min in the opener, the Supreme Novices' Hurdle (1.30). This race has been kind to us in the past and it can be kind again today.


Min has been ultra-impressive on the racecourse and we've even found it hard to pull him up at the end of his races such is his energy and exuberance. His work at home is exceptional and he jumps like liquid, making up ground over every hurdle.

He's been quite keen but it hasn't stopped him and, remember, that's been on heavy ground. On good ground you'd think it would be less of an issue and we've got the right man on board in Ruby so we're not overly worried about that; he'll put him to sleep.

Our other two runners are interesting but I think Petit Mouchoir is better value than Bellshill, who may need a longer trip. I'd put a line through Petit's last run, before that he was just behind Tombstone and yet he's three times bigger in the market, he's an each-way steal.

We'll be hoping for a quick-fire double with Douvan in the Racing Post Arkle (2.10). Dad has made no secret in saying that he's probably the best horse in the yard, even as a six-year-old. He's electric at home and his performances on track have been phenomenal.

Sizing John has drawn the short straw behind Douvan on numerous occasions and will be the principal threat again, while I like Pat Fahy's Morning Assembly in the Handicap Chase (2.50).

His horses are on fire and Davy Russell is a massive asset with a winner around Cheltenham every year since 2006.

The absence of reigning champion Faugheen would normally take the glow off the Stan James Champion Hurdle (3.30) but the addition of Annie Power has caught the public's imagination. With the seven-pound allowance on her side, she has a massive chance, especially after nice prep run .

She was too keen when second in the World Hurdle two years ago while she looked a winner all over before jumping a shadow at the last hurdle here last year. If there is any horse that deserves to win at the Cheltenham Festival, it's Annie and if she brushes up on her jumping, she will.

Nichols Canyon is the only horse to have lowered Faugheen's colours, winning six Grade Ones along the way, but he always seems to the underdog and he is probably flying a little under the radar again after his last run. He had a hard race at Christmas but we've freshened him up since then.

Nichols was beaten at Cheltenham last year but we didn't make enough use of if him so Paul Townend won't be hanging around and I'd be very disappointed if he was outside the first three. He's an each-way bet to nothing.

Sempre Medici completes our trio and he ran well in the County Hurdle last year before handing Identity Thief a fair beating in Fairyhouse, so odds of 25/1 are on the generous side. Of the opposition, I can't have My Tent Or Yours and if he wins they should build a statue of Nicky Henderson at Cheltenham.

He wasn't good enough to win two years ago and I don't see why he would be good enough now coming off a 703-day lay-off.

The juveniles from last year aren't up to scratch either so I'd be most worried about Identity Thief, who's improving with every run and looks a danger.

We've won the last seven runnings of the Mares' Hurdle (4.10) and in Vroum Vroum Mag, we have our banker of the Festival. She's eight from eight since coming over from France and she's the best value of all our favourites.

We don't think the ground will trouble her and she travelled over well. I'd be disappointed if she wasn't good enough as she looks a class apart, while Gitane Du Berlais might have a small shout for a place if she comes back to herself.

My only ride of the day is Pont Alexandre for Mr Ricci in the National Hunt Chase (4.40) but he's worth the wait and I hope to get a great spin around. He does jump a little to his right which would be a slight concern around Cheltenham but he's a good jumper and he brings Grade One form to the table.

We also run Measureofmydreams who is a great price and will definitely be staying on up the hill. He's the perfect horse for this kind of race and it's hard to see him being out of the first four, while Pleasant Company might just be slightly outclassed.

Anyone who has thrown their leg across a horse wants to ride at Cheltenham and I'm no different. The possibility of having a winner really gets the pulse racing, and hopefully I can also be the source of some winners this week for you too.

What a week in store - buckle up and let the games begin.

Patrick's Picks

1.30 Min

2.10 Douvan

2.50 Morning Assembly

3.30 Annie Power

4.10 Vroum Vroum Mag (Nap)

4.50 Pont Alexandre

5.30 McKinley (e/w)

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