Willie Mullins Assembling Strong Cheltenham Festival Team As He Seeks Ninth Trainers’ Title

Allaho destroyed the field in the 2021 Ryanair Chase.Allaho destroyed the field in the 2021 Ryanair Chase.

Mullins’ Cheltenham Squad: Days 3 & 4

Willie Mullins is the most successful trainer in Cheltenham Festival history with 78 winners. This includes four Champion Hurdles and two Cheltenham Gold Cups. He has been leading trainer at the meeting on eight occasions, saddling a record eight winners in 2015. The only major race at the meeting to elude him so far is the Queen Mother Champion Chase. We have taken an early look at the strong team being assembled at Closulton in County Carlow as this year’s meeting approaches. Here is our guide to his likely contenders on the final two days of the Cheltenham Festival 2022.

Day 3: Allaho hot favourite for repeat win in Ryanair

The two feature races on Cheltenham Festival day 3 are the Ryanair Chase and the Stayers’ Hurdle and Mullins has the ante-post favourite in both events. Allaho put up one of the best performances of the week last year in the Ryanair with a breath-taking display of jumping. He showed that he was as good as ever by beating old rival Fakir D’oudairies by 12 lengths at Thurles in January.

Klassical Dream, a former Supreme winner, has spent a long time on the side-lines in the past couple of seasons. He successfully stepped up in trip to three miles to win at Punchestown last April and returned after a 243-day absence to win at Leopardstown in December. He made all the running to beat reigning Stayers’ Hurdle winner Flooring Porter by two lengths and the pair look set to renew rivalry on March 17th.

Mullins also has the ante-post favourite in the Mares Novices Hurdle with Allegorie de Vassy at a best-priced 9-2. She joined Mullins at the end of November and was an easy winner at Fairyhouse on New Year’s Day. It will take something smart to lower the colours of Henry de Bromhead’s Bob Olinger in the Turners Novices’ Chase where the Mullins entries include Haut En Couleurs.

Day 4: Al Boum Photo seeking third Gold Cup victory

In 2020 Mullins saddled four winners on Gold Cup day, including the big race itself with Al Boum Photo. The horse could only finish third last year when attempting a Gold Cup hat-trick but will be returning to Prestbury Park on March 18th. Having considered campaigning Al Boum Photo more aggressively, Mullins has stuck to the tried and tested route with a solitary win at Tramore and he is 10-1 to reclaim the crown.

He could be joined by King George VI Chase winner Tornado Flyer and last fence faller Asterion Forlonge. Both horses are entered in the Irish Gold Cup on 5th February and that could determine whether or not they line up at Cheltenham.

Mullins has two live chances in the opening Triumph Hurdle with Vauban and Icare Allen. The former went into plenty of notebooks when an unlucky second on his debut at Punchestown and could bid to make amends in the Leopardstown Spring Juvenile Hurdle on February 5th. Icare Allen beat a big field of maidens with the minimum of fuss at Leopardstown and looks another juvenile worth following.

Billaway has twice finished runner-up in the Hunters Chase and is currently 6-1 favourite, despite being beaten on his seasonal reappearance. Concertista provides Mullins with another market leader in the Mares Chase. He saddled the 1-2 last year and runner-up Elimay could provide the biggest danger.