Sunday 25 February 2018

Willie Mullins gives an insight into his Cheltenham Festival contenders

Trainer Willie Mullins with Valseur Lido, left, and Vautour, at his stables ahead of the Cheltenham Festival. Willie Mullins Stable Visit ahead of Cheltenham 2016. Closutton, Bagenalstown, Co. Carlow. Picture credit: Seb Daly / SPORTSFILE
Trainer Willie Mullins with Valseur Lido, left, and Vautour, at his stables ahead of the Cheltenham Festival. Willie Mullins Stable Visit ahead of Cheltenham 2016. Closutton, Bagenalstown, Co. Carlow. Picture credit: Seb Daly / SPORTSFILE Newsdesk Newsdesk

With the Cheltenham Festival now just a fortnight away, Willie Mullins talks through some of his formidable team for the showpiece meeting.


Un De Sceaux

"He seems in great form. I would love it if the race was tomorrow. I'm just counting down the days with him, he's in terrific order.

"We'll probably do a school on a racetrack somewhere before we go (to Cheltenham).

"What I loved about Ascot was the manner of his racing. He switched off and settled and looked at his fences and jumped them, rather than going down and flying out over them.

"Sometimes with a horse like him they just get faster and faster until they blow their lid, but he seems to be coming around now, which is good."



"Strictly speaking if we were to aim our horses for the races they could win, things might be different, but at the moment we're keen to go for the Gold Cup (with Vautour).

"He did a very nice session in Leopardstown on Sunday and it was just enough as he and others that went there all worked on Saturday.

"He's in the Ryanair and the Gold Cup and at the moment everyone is keen to fire as many bullets as they can at the Gold Cup.

"I think he's enough stamina. We asked a big question in Kempton, going on that far out.

"Traditionally our horses wouldn't be as fit at Christmas as they are in March and I don't think he's ever shone at Christmas, but he's been way better when it comes to Cheltenham."



"I must compliment the vet in Cheltenham after he got his cut.

"I worried about it at the time. I thought I might not have enough time to get him ready, but the way the stitches healed up, we didn't lose much time and I think I can make it up easily.

"We were able to keep him walking. It was probably about 10 days before we were able to get him back to trot, but he'd have been having a week off anyhow.

"We've got him back doing fast work and I'm not too worried if he jumps (schools) again or not. Basically he's a good jumper.

"He's got a bit more work to do, but I'm happy where I am with him."



"Don Poli is in good order and jumped well on Sunday.

"He loves Cheltenham and loves that hill. He just makes ground round there all the time.

"I think he has enough speed for a Gold Cup.

"Valseur Lido looks like he's crying out for more distance. Ruby hadn't asked him a question going to the last in the Irish Gold Cup and an extra two and a half furlongs is going to be right up his street as well.

"I haven't spoken to Gigginstown yet. There's talk they might prefer to go to the Ryanair, but we'll see."


Annie Power

"We've got to supplement her (Annie Power), but Vroum Vroum Mag would look a possible for the Mares' Hurdle and if that's the case I would imagine Annie would go for the Champion

"Going back two years we felt Annie could be a Champion Hurdle horse, but we had Hurricane Fly in it and you'd have to think maybe this is the year she should run in it.

"I don't think coming back to two miles will be any trouble to her. When you consider how many horses we could enter for a Champion Hurdle she'd be as fast as any of them.

"She's good and keen at home and I'm happy with that as we need her to get all that work.

"I'd imagine she'll wear the hood, it will certainly make her easier to ride. With the pace they'll be going in the Champion she probably need not have it, but it will cost nothing to wear and it might make her easier to manage."


Sempre Medici

"Sempre Medici definitely goes, Nichols Canyon - we'll have another think about the World Hurdle for him, but I think connections-wise they are keen on the Champion.

"He disappointed last time, but he's usually very good and very seldom disappoints. You have to forgive a horse a bad run every now and then. If he's well, he'll go there.

"Sempre Medici probably needs to improve 10lb, he has to step up but I have nothing else to run him in unless he carries top weight in the Coral Cup or something and I don't have any interest in doing that."



Min is a class apart from his Punchestown rivals


"He definitely goes for the Supreme and we're happy with him at home.

"I don't think he's as good as Douvan and it's hard to think he's as good as Vautour. I hope he is.

"Min looks very decent, but until after Cheltenham we won't know.

"This time last year I couldn't believe what I was seeing with Douvan on the gallops. I thought I was half-cracked, but in Cheltenham he showed us what he'd shown me at home.

"Min is a lovely horse at home and he's fine in the parade ring, and yet when he gets down to the start at the races he seems to take a good grip.

"I'd imagine there'll be a lot more pace in Cheltenham and hopefully he'll just blend in. I don't think it will be a problem.

"I'm told he wore this and that when he was running in France, but he was beaten 15 and 20 lengths, so I'm not going to go down that route!

"I just let him go off and do what he does and we'll see if he's good enough."



"Bellshill's performance the other day suggests he should go for the Neptune and Yorkhill is plenty fast enough to go for the Supreme.

"Bellshill just had an off-day the last day. I thought he could have the speed for the Supreme in the autumn, but his run the other day just put doubts in my mind.

"Yorkhill's pedigree suggests he could go three miles and he's won a point-to-point, but he's sharp enough for two.

"Yorkhill has had two runs and won a Grade One and the horse that was third in the Tolworth (Agrapart) came out and won the Betfair Hurdle, so Yorkhill looks good value for the Supreme."


Bleu Et Rouge

"He can run in the Supreme, the Neptune, or the Albert Bartlett. He has the speed to run in the Supreme, but I'm not sure he has the jumping ability to keep up.

"Therefore he should go for the Neptune, but the owner (JP McManus) has Yanworth in that, and I think he stays well enough to go out for the Bartlett.

"If Yanworth stays right I would imagine they'll want him to run in one of the other two races.

"I'm sure Barry Geraghty would want to ride him."


A Toi Phil

"He will either go for the Neptune or the Albert Bartlett. I'd imagine it might be the Neptune as Gigginstown have a lot of horses for the Albert Bartlett."


Thomas Hobson

"I'm thinking Albert Bartlett for him. He could be a class horse in that race."


Long Dog

"He's similar to Thomas Hobson in that he could either go for the Neptune or the Albert Bartlett, but it might be the Neptune with Thomas Hobson more likely to go for the longer race."



"He will probably go for the Albert Bartlett. He should probably stay at home and go to Fairyhouse, to be honest, but I think he'll end up going."



"We're probably looking at the Albert Bartlett.

"He was working very well before having a small setback. He's back and rode out this morning perfect. I think he's done plenty of work and he's a horse with a lot of ability.

"He's very hard to train, but we can get him right now and again and when he's right he works fantastic."



"She goes for the new mares' novice hurdle and is in good form.

"Her form looks very good and she shows us that at home.

"She has a fantastic pedigree and I think her Flat form in France worked out very well.

"If she can handle the hurdles in Cheltenham, she has a fair engine.

"She's a way better jumper than she was. It was a fantastic maiden hurdle in Punchestown that she won and she beat those horses very easily."



"She disappointed the last day and that is a worry.

"She could wait and go to Fairyhouse for the mares' novice Grade One, but I'd like to have her there with Limini in the mares' novice at Cheltenham."





"He obviously goes for the Arkle and probably looks our best prospect (of the week), but it's hard to think you're depending on a novice chaser, just because of the nature of novice chasers.

"Douvan is at that point of his career where I don't know if we ever had anything as good."


Black Hercules

"He's the one I'm thinking most about. I think he's favourite for the four-miler (National Hunt Chase), but I'm actually thinking of changing.

"He was very keen with Ruby (Walsh) the last day and if he's that keen in the four-miler he's not going to get home.

"It's been on my mind to bring him back for the RSA or even the JLT. I actually think he might be better suited by coming back to the JLT and that one is up for discussion big time."



"He's in good form and will probably go for the JLT."


Pont Alexandre

"We're aiming him at either the RSA or the four-miler."


Roi Des Francs

"He could go either four-miler or RSA, depending on what Gigginstown want to do.

"Stamina is not an issue with him."



"He'll definitely go for the four-miler, I think.

"If he got a nice weight in the Kim Muir Patrick (Mullins) might be keen to go there, but I was keen to go for the four-miler.

"The Irish don't seem to have a very good record in the Kim Muir."


Avant Tout

"He has a few options over fences and I've also entered him a few handicap hurdles, so it will be interesting to see what mark he gets.

"He won a two-mile chase and he won a three-mile hurdle. He could go anywhere.



"He will probably go for the JLT, or could even go for the RSA.

"There's plenty of stamina in his pedigree."



Vroum Vroum Mag ridden by Ruby Walsh (right) clears the last flight before going on to win the OLBG.Com Mares' Hurdle at Ascot

Vroum Vroum Mag

"I don't think I'd have any problem racing her against horses (males), but the programme of mares' races were there for her and they were nice races to win.

"I'd imagine she's going for the Mares' Hurdle. To step into the other company (World Hurdle) she'd have to take on Grade One horses, and that would be a big jump.

"She was good at Ascot and I've been taken with her performances rather than what she's beaten. It's how she's done it.

"She looks to be just going along and then Ruby changes his hands to squeeze her and next thing she just kicks up two gears. I think she's a very good mare.

"If you saw her in a field with another bunch of horses she wouldn't stand out. She's a very ordinary-looking, plain individual, but she has an engine."


Champion Bumper horses

"We find it impossible to rate Augusta Kate as she doesn't show us anything at home. She either doesn't like our gallop or doesn't like the way we train her.

"I think Avenir D'Une Vie is the highest-rated horse and I thought Bacardys' performance at Christmas was good.

"There's the horse that won the Goffs Bumper two years ago, Very Much So. He's doing nicely and was supposed to go jumping this year.

"Another horse that was due to go jumping is Castello Sforza. He might go for the bumper as well, along with Battleford.

"They all have bits of form that give them a chance."



"Let's Dance, Footpad and Apple's Jade will run in the Triumph Hurdle.

"There's also Voix Du Reve and Ria D'Etel. We'll see what weight Void Du Reve gets in the Fred Winter.

"I can't go past Footpad. What he did the other day was very good in a true-run race."



"It will be interesting to see how Great Field gets rated after his win in Leopardstown on Sunday. He has a few options.

"Mckinley will go for the novice handicap chase on the first day.

"The Coral Cup would look the job for Arbre De Vie and Blazer will either go there or the Martin Pipe.

"Childrens List could go for the Coral Cup, along with Clondaw Warrior.

"Dicosimo might go for the County Hurdle and Kalkir will go for the Coral.

"Ivan Grozny is one we're trying to get to the County Hurdle and Townshend might go there as well.

"The Martin Pipe is a race that's been good for us. I thought Blazer could be the one for that."

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