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

Ferny Hollow is one of Mullins' leading hopes on the opening day and is currently favourite for the Arkle.Ferny Hollow is one of Mullins' leading hopes on the opening day and is currently favourite for the Arkle.

Mullins’ Cheltenham Squad: Days 1 & 2

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. We have taken an early look at the powerful team being assembled at Closutton in County Carlow as this year’s meeting approaches. Here is our guide to his likely contenders on the first two days of the Cheltenham Festival 2022.

Day 1: Ferny Hollow spearheads Mullins team on opening day

Mullins will go head-to-head with a familiar foe in Nicky Henderson in the opening Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. His main hope appears to be Dysart Dynamo, so impressive when winning by 19 lengths at Punchestown in January. If he overturns the fancied Henderson duo of Constitution Hill and Jonbon, it will be a big blow for the British-trained runners after last year’s humiliation when Ireland claimed 23 of the 28 races.

Dysart Dynamo could be joined by the classy Sir Gerhard, the winner of the Champion Bumper last season and also an entry for the Ballymore on day 2. The shortest priced runner for the stable on day 1 is likely to be Ferny Hollow in the Arkle, a race where Mullins holds a strong hand with second favourite Blue Lord. Last year’s Supreme winner Appreciate It and two-time runner-up Sharjah are set to oppose the odds-on favourite Honeysuckle in the Champion Hurdle.

Mullins has won the Mares Hurdle a record nine times, including six times with the remarkable Quevega (2009 – 2014). His entries this year include second favourite Stormy Ireland and former Triumph Hurdle winner Burning Victory. Cheltenham’s Tuesday is rounded off by the National Hunt Chase and Stattler has been aimed at this race for some time.

The Champion Hurdle is the Day 1 feature and Sharjah will look to upset Honeysuckle.

The Champion Hurdle is the Day 1 feature and Sharjah will look to upset Honeysuckle.

Day 2: Galopin Des Champs the Mullins banker of the day

The opening race on day 2 is the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle with Sir Gerhard currently the 4-1 ante-post favourite. He has yet to race beyond two miles but would hold a leading chance in whichever novice event he goes for. Next up is Galopin Des Champs in the Festival Novices’ Chase, a best-priced 13-8 and already 7-1 favourite for the 2023 Cheltenham Gold Cup. He looks likely to face a smart rival in the Paul Nicholls-trained Bravemansgame.

The highlight of day 2 is the Queen Mother Champion Chase, already being billed as the race of the week. Mullins trains Energumene who forced favourite Shishkin to pull out all the stops in the Clarence House Chase at Ascot. They are two outstanding young chasers and Energumene will be looking to reverse the form on March 16th. Stable companion Chacun Pour Soi needs to bounce back from a lacklustre display in the Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown Park if he is to feature.

Mullins has only won the Coral Cup once but has the two ante-post market leaders at present in Henn See and Kilcruit. French import Henn See is very difficult to assess after winning a maiden hurdle at Limerick on his first start for the yard. Day two concludes with the Champion Bumper, won a record eleven times by Mullins. His main contenders this season include Facile Vega, Redemption Day and Pink In The Park. All three were very easy winners on their racecourse debuts.