Cheltenham Festival Top Trainer tips – Willie Mullins’ five Festival chances
Willie Mullins is sure to feature at the head of many peoples’ Cheltenham Festival top trainer tips to land the prestigious Champion Trainer accolade at the Festival for a sixth year and we pick out five of the Closutton trainer’s best Festival winning chances.
The most successful trainer of all time, Willie Mullins’ boasts a formidable Cheltenham Festival record which in no small part has seen him inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame at the premier jumps track.
As of 2019, Mullins had saddled a magnificent 65 winners since Tourist Attraction gave the County Carlow handler his first success at the Festival when winning the 1995 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. His latest winner came courtesy of Al Boum Photo who took the top honours in the Cheltenham Gold Cup to give Mullins a first success in one of the few Grade One races at the Festival that had always eluded him previously.
Only a brave few would back against Mullins adding to his formidable of tally of Festival winners this season and there is sure to be another impressive battalion of runners makings its’ way across the Irish Sea from Closutton to the Cotswolds.
Brian Healy looks at the pick of the County Carlow trainer’s equine riches and picks out Willie Mullins’ top five horses who many punters will be hoping can collect gold at the Cheltenham Festival and see the Closutton maestro crowned Cheltenham Festival top trainer for a sixth year.
CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL TOP TRAINER TIPS – BETTING SPECIAL
AL BOUM PHOTO (Gold Cup)
The horse which finally delivered the Gold Cup for Willie Mullins, Al Boum Photo (4/1, William Hill) will return to the scene of his biggest career success to date. All being well he will attempt to mount a successful title defence taking on the likes of stablemate Kemboy, Santini, Delta Work and Clan Des Obeaux amongst others.
The Buck’s Boum gelding was beaten by his stablemate Kemboy on his next start following his Gold Cup heroics when denied in the Punchestown Gold Cup in May; but he will head to Cheltenham a fresh horse having had just one start this season which came on New Years’ Day at Tramore in a Listed contest where he ran out a six lengths’ winner over Acapella Bourgeois.
It certainly isn’t hard to make a case for him making a successful defence of his Gold Cup crown, and he could prove the pick of the Willie Mullins team for the Gold Cup with his stablemate Kemboy having been beaten on both starts this term.
He may well become the first horse to win successive Gold Cups since Best Mate back in the annals of history and he heads to the Festival with solid claims.
ASTERION FORLONGES (Supreme Novices’ Hurdle)
Unbeaten Asterion Forlonge (6/1, Coral) is yet to have his Cheltenham Festival target finalised by Willie Mullins with entries in both the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and the Ballymore Hurdle. But whichever race the Coastal Path gelding pitches up at, he is sure to hold solid claims of success.
Unbeaten thus far, he opened his Grade One win account with an impressive success over Easywork at Leopardstown recently in the Chanelle Pharma Novice Hurdle. However, his owner also has current Supreme Novices’ Hurdle favourite Shishkin – as well as Al Boum Photo in the Gold Cup – and may not be keen to see his two hurdling stars go head-to-head.
Likely to be split with one going the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle route and the other taking in the Ballymore Hurdle, his wins have all come at two miles so the Supreme may well emerge as his main focus with Shiskhin heading to the Ballymore Hurdle.
Regardless, whichever race he ends up in at Cheltenham he will head to Cheltenham with live chances and he could well maintain his perfect win record in whatever contest he lines up in.
BENIE DES DIEUX (Mares’ Hurdle)
Like her stablemate Asterion Forlonges, the ultimate target for Benie Des Dieux (Evens, Paddy Power) remains fluid and the Great Pretender mare holds entries in both the Mares’ Hurdle and the Stayers’ Hurdle although connections haven’t fully ruled out a tilt at the Champion Hurdle.
The Mares’ Hurdle could be her most likely destination where she might lock horns with Henry de Bromhead’s unbeaten Honeysuckle although that one is also a possible Champion Hurdle contender and plans are yet to finalised for her also.
A drop to two miles for the Rich Ricci-owned mare might not be ideal scenario for the nine-year old who has done all her winning at longer trips. That said, she isn’t short of speed and a well-run Champion Hurdle could offset any lingering doubts over the shorter trip.
She stormed clear over three miles to win the recent Galmoy Hurdle on her return from more than eight months off the track and she’ll head to Cheltenham with the benefit of that run under her belt.
If she goes to the Mares’ Hurdle then she’s likely to be the Festival banker for many people and her place in the list of Willie Mullins top five horses for the Cheltenham Festival is well-warranted having only been beaten once over hurdles since joining the Closutton trainer – when she fell in last season’s Mares’ Hurdle with the race at her mercy.
CHANCUN POUR SOI (Champion Chase)
Defi Du Seuil has leapt to the head of the Champion Chase reckoning this term; but while his place at the top of the betting for Wednesday’s Grade One feature has been usurped by Altior following the dual-Champion Chase winner returning to winning ways at Newbury recently, the chances of the unbeaten Chacun Pour Soi (11/4, Unibet) can’t be underestimated.
The Policy Maker gelding is 3-4 over fences since joining the Mullins yard from France, including posting an impressive defeat of Defi Du Seuil in the Ryanair Novice Chase at Punchestown last May.
Having looked to have needed the run on his return at Leopardstown over Christmas – an accusation that could be levelled at a few of the Mullins runners around that time – he built markedly on that reappearance to readily brush aside stablemate Min to win the Dublin Chase.
Although he also holds an entry in the Ryanair Chase, he is likely to be Mullins’ main hope of success in the Champion Chase which he has so far failed to win.
FAUGHEEN (Marsh Novices’ Chase)
The recent story of ‘the Machine’ is one forged of legends and the twelve-year old has been resurgent since his attentions where switched to chasing this campaign.
Faugheen (8/1, BetVictor) the former Champion Hurdle winner was considered past his best over hurdles having failed to win in four stats during the 2018/19 campaign where he twice failed to complete the course and was readily beaten in other starts.
The glory days seemed to be behind the Germany gelding, but he has been rejuvenated by going chase where despite being very much a veteran now he has racked up a winning hat-trick of starts over fences which include two Grade Ones. The latest of those came with a narrow defeat over Easy Game in the recent Flogas Novices’ Chase and he could well head now to either the Marsh Novices’ Chase or the RSA Chase.
The former race is most likely to be the target for the veteran and there would be mo more popular winner across the four days than Faugheen ‘the machine’ should he add to his Cheltenham Festival winning haul. If only for sentimental reasons he is sure to be one Willie Mullins top five horses for the Cheltenham Festival amongst punters and he could contribute to the Mullins’ haul of winners this year despite his advancing years.