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The Road To Cheltenham: Willie Mullins (Part 1)


Willie Mullins’ 2022 Cheltenham Festival Fancies (Part 1)

Top Irish handler Willie Mullins has scooped the leading trainer prize at the Cheltenham Festival in eight of the last eleven years, the most successful being that of 2015 with eight victories, a record matched by fellow Irishman Gordon Elliott three years later.

The master of Closutton once again fields a formidable team ahead of this year’s festival at Prestbury Park, currently being responsible for eight ante-posts favourites, outside of the handicaps. With such strength in depth it is not beyond the realms of possibility that Mullins could, one year, get close to a double-figure success-rate at the festival. Will that year be 2022?

Willie Mullins’ Leading Festival Fancies (Part 1) – Tuesday/Wednesday

(TUESDAY)

Supreme Novices’ Hurdle

With the Nicky Henderson pair of Constitution Hill and Jonbon dominating the betting along with the Mullins duo of SIR GERHARD (6/1 with Paddy Power who have a new customer offer of bet £10 get £40) and DYSART DYNAMO (11/2 with bet365), this opener could set the trend for the rest of the week. Whether all four horses turn up on the day only time will tell but it must be long odds-on the first race going to either Seven Barrows or Closutton.

SIR GERHARD

Arkle Chase

Responsible for many people’s idea of the week’s banker in FERNY HOLLOW (7/4 with bet365), Mullins has a strong second-string in BLUE LORD (6/1 with Coral) should the market leader fail to live up to his lofty reputation.

FERNY HOLLOW

Ultima Handicap

No obvious early contender for this handicap chase but AGUSTA GOLD (16/1 with Unibet) a possibility contender in what is sure to prove a wide-open affair.

Champion Hurdle

The simple matter of a certain Honeysuckle stands in the way of another Champion Hurdle victory for the master of Closutton, who fields the two main dangers to the superstar mare at this stage with APPRECIATE IT (7/1 with William Hill) and SHARJAH (8/1 with Betvictor).

SHARJAH

Mares’ Hurdle

Mullins is sure to be well represented in a race he has dominated with nine victories since the contest was first run in 2008. STORMY IRELAND (7/1 with William Hill) and BURNING VICTORY (12/1 with bet365) just two of several possibilities.

Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle

Impossible to predict which Mullins juveniles are likely to head for this handicap rather than the Triumph Hurdle but the unexposed filly FEIGH (25/1 with bet365) could be one.

National Hunt Chase

Fourth in last year’s Albert Bartlett when sent off the 7/2 favourite, STATTLER (5/1 with bet365) made a winning debut over fences at Fairyhouse last month and at this stage looks the stable’s number one for this stamina test.

Day One Summary

Mullins is expected to enter the first day with his usual strong hand headed by Sir Gerhard, Dysart Dynamo, Ferny Hollow, Blue Lord, Appreciate It, Sharjah, Stormy Ireland and Stattler. Anything less than two winners would be classed as a disappointing start but don’t be surprised if that total reached three, or even four.

(WEDNESDAY)

Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle

Mullins is responsible for the first two horses in the betting for this race run over 5f further than Tuesday’s Supreme. Both DYSART DYNAMO (9/2 with bet365) and SIR GERHARD (6/1 with Unibet) may well be kept apart with one running in each, so caution is advised until the picture becomes clearer or non-runner-no-bet is available.

Festival Novices’ Chase

Another Mullins banker in the eyes of many, courtesy of the exciting GALOPIN DES CHAMPS (6/4 with bet365) who made a big impression with an impressive 22 length victory on his chasing debut at Leopardstown over Christmas. The favourite can expect a strong British challenge however in the shape of Bravemansgame and Ahoy Senor.

Coral Cup

Early days for this major handicap hurdle but the so far disappointing novice KILCRUIT (14/1 with Unibet) could enter the picture at a later stage.

KILCRUIT (Green)

Champion Chase

ENERGUMENE (5/2 with Betfair Sportsbook) faces a potential clash with 11/10 favourite Shishkin at Ascot on Saturday, the result of which is likely to shake up the betting for this two mile championship contest. Mullins has another possible string to his bow with CHACUN POUR SOI (12/1 with Betvicxtor).

ENERGUMENE

Cross Country Chase

This unique contest is one race which is almost certainly heading somewhere other than Mullins’ Closutton stable who may not even field a contender.

Grand Annual Chase

GENTLEMAN DE MEE (16/1 with bet365), BLACKBOW (20/1 with Paddy Power) and CIEL DE NEIGE (20/1 with Unibet) all look the type to post strong claims in this 2m handicap chase, in particular BLACKBOW who jumped really well when finishing second on his reappearance at Fairyhouse recently.

Champion Bumper

The Gordon Elliott-trained American Mike is the current 3/1 favourite with bet365. But Mullins is responsible for the next three horses in the betting for a race he has won on no less than 11 occasions. Any one of FACILE VEGA (4/1 with Coral), REDEMPTION DAY (6/1 with Coral) and PINK IN THE PARK (12/1 with bet365) could well take that remarkable total to 12.

Day Two Summary

Another potentially lucrative day for the Mullins’ stable headed by Dysart Dynamo, Sir Gerhard, Galopin Des Champs and Energumene, along with a strong hand in the Bumper. Three winners on the second day is a strong possibility. So five or six successes at the halfway stage could put Mullins one step away from yet another leading Cheltenham Festival trainer prize.