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Festival Special: Willie Mullins Cheltenham runners


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Willie Mullins Cheltenham Contenders – Part One




Irish champion trainer Willie Mullins has dominated the Cheltenham Festival recently and has won the ‘Top Trainer’ at the meeting prize four times in the last five seasons.

His tally has now quickly risen to an amazing 41 victories in total and last year broke the record for most successes at the Festival in one season with eight winners. At the moment with still a couple of months to go before the big meeting in March Mullins is the 1/5 favourite with William Hill to come out on top again this season.

So, lets have a look at the options Willie Mullins has at his disposal for the 2016 Festival at this stage. In this first part we will look at the Tuesday and Wednesday possible runners.

Dont forget it's NR NO BET with Skybet



                                                                           Day One


Champion Hurdle


Its always a massive day for the man from County Carlow with the Champion Hurdle taking centre stage. Mullins has won it three times and last year trained the first three home with Faugheen, Arctic Fire and Hurricane Fly.

Faugheen is the 8/13 favourite with Paddy Power to retain his title after bolting up in his recent race at Kempton. He looks like running once more before Cheltenham and is a solid option.


Mullins also has Nichols Canyon (7/1 Stan James) and Arctic Fire (10/1 Bet365) in the race and you wouldn’t want to bet against him repeating his fete from 2015 by saddling the first three home.


Supreme Hurdle


Douvan got the ball rolling in the Supreme last year and this time round we have Min. An ex-French import who has won both of his novice hurdles to date and looks a very smart prospect for the Ricci’s. 6/4 with Bet365 is the best price around at the moment and could go off as shorts as Even money on the day.


The yard also have Bellshill and Yorkhill entered, two nice sorts owned by Graham Wylie and it remains to be seen whether or not he splits them up by running one in this race and the other in the Neptune. Long Dog won well last time out and is another contender from the yard but is more of an outsider at 25/1 with William Hill and could go for the Neptune.


Arkle Challenge Trophy


Although Mullins has the likes of Shaneshill and Killultagh Vic entered the Arkle is all about Douvan who won on day one last year. The Supreme winner is 8/11 with Betway to complete the double and as long as his jumping holds up around Cheltenham he will take some stopping.


Mares Hurdle


Mullins will always be associated with the Mares race courtesy of the brilliant Quevega who won the race six times on the trot. Last year Annie Power came to last hurdle with the race in the bag only to come down. Mullins still won the race with Glens Melody who was his second string.


Annie Power has had her problems and we haven’t seen her yet this season, she is however the 10/11 favourite for this race with Betfred. There is a small chance she could go for the World Hurdle (10/1 BetVictor) and a decision will be made in February according to Rich Ricci.


National Hunt Chase


Mullins last won the 4m National Hunt Chase in 2013 with Back In Focus but actually rode the winner as an amateur on two occasions so the race has a big place in his heart. With that said he has two very interesting runners in the ante-post market in Ponte Alexandre and Black Hercules.


Pont Alexandre made a winning comeback at Punchestown in December and is 8/1 with Bet365 at the moment although the trainer has mentioned a tilt at the RSA may be possible instead. Black Hercules has similar options but is in the same ownership as Back In Focus who won this race so is a possibility at 10/1 with William Hill.



                                                                       Day Two



Neptune Hurdle


If all has gone well on day one the Mullins camp will be in good heart by the time we get to the Neptune Hurdle, which opens up proceedings on Wednesday.


The yard has won this race three times and most recently with Faugheen in 2014. At least three leading contenders here with Yorkhill (8/1 Betfred) and Bellshill  (4/1 BetVictor) leading the way for Andrea and Graham Wylie while the Ricci’s will seriously consider Long Dog as they may not want to take on Min in the Supreme. He’s a 16/1 shot with Coral and one at bigger prices is Petit Mouchoir for Gigginstown, he’s well regarded and is 20/1 at Paddy Power.


RSA Chase


Mullins doesn’t have one of the fancied horses in the RSA this year but still has plenty of possible runners. No More Heroes and More Of That head the market but the stables Pont Alexandre is a 10/1 shot with Skybet and he will go here or in the four-miler on the opening day. Killultagh Vic won at the Festival last year and now goes over the bigger obstacles; he’s 14/1 with Betway. Outlander, 25/1 with Paddy Power and Black Hercules the same price with Betfred are other entries.


Champion Chase


A few entries here but you only need to concentrate on one, Un De Sceaux last years impressive Arkle winner will line up and if putting in a clear round should go very close to achieving the double. He’s a top price of 7/4 with William Hill and is due to run soon and that will be his last run before the Festival. Champagne Fever (28/1 Betway) and Felix Yonger (33/1 Bet365) are big prices but don’t look good enough in what looks a strong race this year now that Sprinter Sacre and Sire De Grugy are back in business.


Champion Bumper


A race Willie Mullins has won 8 times since 1996 but has missed out the last two years so will be keen to get back on the scoreboard. One that has been backed is Admiral Chief who has yet to run for his owners Gigginstown Stud. He’s a 16/1 shot with Paddy Power at present.


Augusta Kate is unbeaten in two starts; she won by 23 lengths at Listowel and then followed up with a comfortable success at Navan next time out.  She’s a 16/1 chance with Ladbrokes. A third runner could by Lucky Pass, he has won a point over three miles plus two bumpers and is well thought of, he’s also 16/1 with William Hill.



Willie Mullins Special Bets;


How Many Winners Will Willie Mullins Get at the 2016 Festival


6 or less = 2/1


7-9 inc. = 11/8     Prices with William Hill


Over 9  = 7/4




                                                                                           Willie Mullins Cheltenham Contenders – Part Two



In the last article we discussed the first two days of the Cheltenham Festival and how Irish champion trainer Willie Mullins had 8 ante-post favourites out of the first 14 races.


 We now go onto the last two days, which by his own admission is not the strongest part of the week but has a strong hand in at least three races on Thursday and a big say in the Gold Cup on Friday.



                                                                                                            Day Three



JLT Novice Chase


One of the better races for Mullins and at the moment has the first two in the ante-post market in Shaneshill and Killultagh Vic. Shaneshill  is as short as 5/1 with Paddy Power and is unbeaten in two starts over fences. He has won over 2m4f so should get the trip ok and ran very well here in the Supreme last year when he was second to Douvan.


The second fav Killultagh Vic won at the Festival last year when landing the Martin Pipe race and then won over 3 miles at Punchestown beating Thistlecrack in the process. That form looks very solid now and not one to write off if he goes for this. He’s 10/1 with Bet365 and won easily on his fencing debut recently.



Ryanair Chase


Another very solid runner here in the shape of Vautour. He won the Supreme in 2014 and followed up in the JLT last year and he’s 7/4 with Betfred to complete the hat-trick in the Ryanair. He has other options but the owner also has other runners in those races so he’s very likely to turn up here.


In good form this season and probably should have won the King George, he just got collared late on after meeting the last fence all wrong. He’s not a strong stayer so keeping him to 2m5f here makes sense. He could be odds-on by the time the race comes round stable mate Valseur Lido may be in the line up. He’s a 16/1 shot with Paddy Power but will find it tough to beat Vautour.



World Hurdle


The same scenario as years gone by and will she or wont she run. Of course we are talking about Annie Power. She’s anything from 9/2 to 10/1 (Stan James) and would be a danger if she turned up. One that will probably run is Vroum Vroum Mag, another promising mare owned by the Ricci’s. She’s a 10/1 shot with Bet365 but you have to remember she has yet to race over 3 miles.


A strange CV so far with only one start over hurdles for Mullins and began her Irish career over fences last season. She won easily at Clonmel last time out over timber and is obviously very classy and maybe this year is a good year to have a go at the World Hurdle with only Thistlecrack showing any decent form so far this season.


Mares Novice Hurdle


The newest race at the Festival is the Mares Novice Hurdle and Willie Mullins is all over this like  a rash and he has a terrific record with his mares at Cheltenham so this was always going to be welcomed in these quarters.


Limini is the 7/2 favourite with Ladbrokes. She’s been well backed despite not been on the track since her debut win at Punchestown last May. Obviously very well regarded and will be the number one contender.


Also entered will be Myska who won on her hurdles debut at Thurles but then took the unusual step of coming to Taunton to win a Listed contest. She won that easily in awful ground but the experience was invaluable and is a 6/1 shot here with Boylesports. The yard could also run Listen Dear who won a Grade 3 at Down Royal in October and could be anything, she’s 11/1 with Betway at present.




                                                                                                            Day Four



Gold Cup


The Cheltenham Gold Cup is the big carrot on the last day of the Festival and Mullins has a first rate chance of taking the prize with the ante-post favourite Djakadam (4/1 Betway) owned by the Ricci’s or the Gigginstown runner Don Poli (6/1 Bet365). Both have excellent credentials and it’s the best chance the trainer has had for ages despite finishing placed with Sir Des Champs, On His Own and of course Djakadam last year. Vautour is still in the betting at around 8/1 but is likely to run in the Ryanair.



Triumph Hurdle


Not a great race for Mullins it has to be said but one or two to look at anyway. Lets Dance was all the rage on her debut at Leopardstown recently and was surprisingly toppled by one of Aidan O’Brien’s youngsters. That one is favourite now so maybe the form is not that bad. Lets Dance is 25/1 with Betfred.


The other juvenile of interest is Allblak Des Places, he won at Fairyhouse on his debut in this country and it was workmanlike rather than flashy. He will improve next time but at the moment is 20/1 with Skybet.



County Hurdle


The Mullins handicapper’s should not be ignored and he has one or two decent contenders in the County Hurdle. The obvious one is Max Dynamite who was second to Quick Jack in the Galway Hurdle off 136. He’s now only 5lbs higher and has since won the Lonsdale Cup at York and finished second in the Melbourne Cup. If he was to take his chance he will be a lot shorter than the 16/1 being offered by Skybet at the minute.


Renneti is perhaps a more likely runner and is 20/1 with Coral at present. Fourth in the Greatwood and third in The Ladbroke is pretty solid form and just has to sort out his temperament at the start of his races.



Albert Bartlett Hurdle


A good race with at least two serious contenders and one of them is the joint favourite at the moment with Up For Review. He bolted up at Punchestown on only his second start over hurdles and first try at three miles under rules. Owned by the Wylie’s he looks a very exciting prospect and is a 5/1 shot with BetVictor among others.


Long Dog is another who deserves to take his chance and is a bit bigger at 20/1 with Paddy Power. He has other options but has Grade 1 form in the book already after a creditable over Tombstone at Leopardstown recently. That was over two miles so has stamina to prove yet but has won over 2m5f.



How Many Winners Will Willie Mullins Get at the 2016 Festival


6 or less = 2/1


7-9 inc. = 11/8       Prices with William Hill


Over 9  = 7/4

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