Mullins leads Irish hopes for World domination
WILLIE MULLINS houses six of the 10 Irish-trained entries for the Ladbrokes World Hurdle at Cheltenham on March 13.
Star mares Annie Power and Quevega are in the list, but Annie Power is also entered in the Stan James Champion Hurdle, while Quevega has won the last five renewals of the OLBG Mares' Hurdle at the Festival and is likely to go for a record six-timer.
Mullins (right) has also entered Grade One-winning hurdlers Boston Bob, Thousand Stars and Zaidpour as well as French import Rubi Ball.
The Irish challenge could include Noel Meade's high-class performer Monksland -- which has been off the track for over a year -- Dedigout, Mala Beach and Rule The World.
Four-times champion Big Buck's is among the 29 entries. The 11-year-old, winner of the three-mile showpiece from 2009 to 2012, was denied the chance of a fifth successive triumph last year through injury.
He is, however, on course in his bid to take his undefeated run over hurdles to 19 in the £60,000 Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham tomorrow week. Trained by Paul Nicholls and owned by Andy Stewart, he will be ridden by Sam Twiston-Davies for the first time in public in that race.
Nicholls holds a strong World Hurdle hand with Celestial Halo and Zarkandar, winners of the Triumph Hurdle at the Festival in 2008 and 2011 respectively, also engaged along with Saphir Du Rheu and Salubrious. Celestial Halo was second last year, but the winner Solwhit is injured and unable to defend his crown.
Reve De Sivola, which finished fourth last March, completed back-to-back victories in the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot on December 21, beating Salubrious by 10 lengths.
"Reve De Sivola will definitely go for the Ladbrokes World Hurdle. He is fine at the moment and there have been no problems since Ascot. I reckon he replicated his performance there from the previous year. For whatever reason, he was just full of himself that day," said trainer Nick Williams.
"He is one of these horses that goes through good spots and bad spots and it just happens to be that he comes right at Ascot. He loves the course, loves the ground and enjoyed making the running.
"I don't know if he will have a prep run. I think last year's Cleeve Hurdle may have taken the edge off him before the Festival, but I don't like going three months without a race and you could say the run at Newbury helped him for the Ascot race -- that was a 21-day gap.
"The options are the Cleeve Hurdle and the Rendlesham Hurdle (at Haydock on February 15), but it depends on what other people are doing, because you don't want to meet Oscar Whisky-type horses.
"He will run in the World Hurdle no matter what the ground is like. Obviously, it will make a slight difference to his chance as he is better on soft ground, but is perfectly OK on good ground."
JP McManus, successful with Baracouda in 2002 and 2003, could be represented by At Fishers Cross, trained by Rebecca Curtis, and Jonjo O'Neill's More Of That.
Meanwhile, Godolphin continued their fine start to the Dubai Carnival with a treble through Cat O'Mountain, Wedding Ring and Emirates Flyer at Meydan.
Cat O'Mountain (6/4 favourite) could well be a star of the future after he backed up two Kempton wins with an impressive performance in the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships Handicap.
Mickael Barzalona hardly had to move a muscle as the Charlie Appleby-trained four-year-old bolted up from Haafaguinea by an eased-down two lengths.
James Doyle took the Listed honours on United Color (9/2) for trainer Dhruba Selvaratnam in the Dubawi Stakes over six furlongs.