Mullins talks up Min's hopes of emulating Supreme stars
Willie Mullins' run of misfortune clearly hasn't tempered his enthusiasm, as he has described the red-hot Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle Min as being as good as Vautour and Douvan at the same stage in their respective careers.
Both emphatic winners of the frenzied Cheltenham Festival opener, Vautour and Douvan are two of the most exciting young chasers in training.
Vautour is expected to vie for his third win in the Cotswolds in the Timico Gold Cup three weeks tomorrow, while Douvan is long odds-on to emulate his 2015 Arkle Trophy rout on day one of the Festival.
Between them, they have amassed eight Grade Ones. Min has so far contested just two hurdle races for the champion trainer, winning both, including a Punchestown Grade Two.
That race has since thrown up a dual winner in Sunday's tidy Grade Two victor Ball D'Arc, and Mullins is happy to take encouragement from that. He also indicated that Min's tendency to race freely doesn't unduly concern.
"All the form lines are coming back good with Ball D'Arc winning in Naas," Mullins said yesterday on At The Races. "Everything that runs from his races compliments him.
"I think he's as good as Faugheen and Vautour were (at the stage in their careers). What he did the last day, having pulled so hard, he was really hard on himself throughout the race and then to pick up again and go away I thought was very good.
"He has followed near enough the same route as Vautour and Douvan, and they are two hot horses to follow. Whether he's as good as those two, I don't know, but he's doing everything they did.
"I don't think the occasion will bother him; we've not had problems in the parade ring and he'd be no different than any horse going to Cheltenham for the first time."
Mullins, Ruby Walsh and Rich Ricci also combined to take the March 15 Grade One with Champagne Fever in 2013.
Min is a top-priced 7/4 to complete the quartet, and he is one of 46 left in the £120,000 two-miler.
There were no shock omissions from any of the seven Grade One novices' events nor from the four-miler, with options still being kept open for the likes of Min's stablemates, Yorkhill and Bellshill.
The smallest remaining novice entry is for the Racing Post Arkle Trophy, with just 21 left in alongside Douvan, of which Mullins trains five in total.
Of the 22, 12 are Irish-based, and Henry de Bromhead has left Sizing John in the two-miler and the JLT over two miles and five furlongs.
Mullins also issued an upbeat report on his reigning Arkle hero Un De Sceaux, which is the only other horse apart from Douvan that is odds-on for a Festival race following Faugheen's Champion Hurdle defection.
Un De Sceaux is as short as 1/2 for the Queen Mother Champion Chase, having left behind his Leopardstown spill with an emphatic defeat of Sire De Grugy at Ascot last month.
"I think for the rider and the horse's self-confidence it was good," Mullins said of Walsh's mount's clear round.
"He has done that now and hopefully he'll go back and try and do what he did last year. His preparation has gone as well as last year - I'm very happy with him.
"He settles better now, which will help I think; he's not as keen as he used to be. Things have got to go right on the day but I think he's fine. I think the form says he's the one the rest have to worry about."
A tilt at Japan's Nakayama Grand Jump was mooted for Felix Yonger, but Mullins said that the Tied Cottage Chase winner will join Un De Sceaux in the Champion Chase line-up.
"I don't think he'll go to Japan, just the cost and everything," Mullins explained.
"He might go next year. Felix is in good form so we'll let him take his chance. I hope he'll get into the money; I think he's in far better form this year than he ever has been."
At Huntingdon today, Mullins will be represented by recent Naas winner Gitane Du Berlais, which will be ridden by Daryl Jacob when she clashes once again with her November Carlisle conqueror, Emily Gray.
Meanwhile, Eddie Harty has reiterated that Minella Foru, Copy That and his weekend runner-up Moon Over Germany will skip the Festival in favour of domestic targets.
The JP McManus-owned Paddy Power Chase winner Minella Foru is prominent in the Ultima Business Solutions Handicap Chase betting, but Fairyhouse and Punchestown are on his agenda instead.