Small Aintree team as Mullins eyes Annie return
Willie Mullins is looking forward to Annie Power's potential Punchestown return as he launches an all-out assault to retain his trainer's title.
The mare, absent this season, is pleasing her trainer but Min, which missed Cheltenham due to a setback, is less likely to be seen this term.
Mullins, who trails Gordon Elliott by €378,000, is bidding for a tenth successive Irish title. This time last year, his ninth crown was sealed and he was launching a bid to win the British one too, which narrowly failed.
"We'll run a couple in the National, Pleasant Company and Alelchi Inois; we could have a bumper horse and possibly something in the Aintree Hurdle," Mullins told the Irish Independent.
"Footpad is maybe more Punchestown-bound. For Nichols Canyon, we are looking... at Punchestown and the race in America in May in which he ran last year. I imagine the juveniles will be kept for Punchestown.
"I normally don't have a big team at Aintree. Last year we were (going for the British title) but this year we are reverting to normal."
Mullins had six Cheltenham winners. "They have come out of the Festival very well. Also Annie Power could run at Punchestown; we step up work in the next couple of weeks. Min is just OK; Annie is in better order."
Reflecting on the Festival, Mullins heaped praise on his riders, especially Ruby Walsh, who won on Yorkhill, Un De Sceaux, Nichols Canyon and Let's Dance on the third day.
"Ruby was great on the Thursday," he said. "The four rides were difficult horses. He delivered. Any one of them could be ride of the month; to have four in the one day was amazing.
"Yorkhill is settling and he is jumping; that he can jump around Cheltenham and that his pedigree is a real old-fashioned chasing one would tell me the progression would be the Gold Cup on that performance. He's learning and maturing, this time next year he could be that direction."
An MRI scan this morning will determine whether Barry Geraghty can make Aintree on Thursday week. The rider missed Cheltenham due to a punctured lung and broken ribs.
Andrew Lynch's appeal against his Gowran ban failed yesterday but trainer Matthew Smith was successful in his own, arising from Theturnofthesun running in a maiden chase on March 11. Lynch got a five-day suspension, which starts on Thursday. Theturnofthesun was banned for 42 days, with effect from yesterday.
In separate appeals arising from the same race, trainer Declan Queally and rider Barry John Foley were successful. Queally had been fined €2,000, Foley banned for five days and the horse Cloudy Morning banned for 42 days.
The matter is not yet over as Queally and Foley are to be referred under a different section of Rule 212, the section relating to schooling in public.
Ana O'Brien, who rode a Naas double on Sunday, was slashed from 9/1 into 3/1 for the apprentice title by Paddy Power yesterday.