Cheltenham Festival 2022: Another Mullins Masterclass in store at Prestbury Park?

Willie Mullins Close Up

With the Cheltenham Festival creeping up, a familiar face is favourite once more to claim the Top Trainer title. Willie Mullins has an embarrassment of riches ready to fire at some of the week's biggest races and our man Billy Grimshaw has taken a look through his leading lights and assessed their chance of turning their potential into prizes. 

Dysart Dynamo - Supreme Novices' Hurdle

The master of Closutton seems to always have either the favourite or a leading chance in this race, with some of his success stories including Champagne Fever, Vautour, Douvan and of course last year's runaway winner Appreciate It. His hand looks predictably strong once more to kick off the week in the perfect fashion with Kilcruit, Bring On The Night and El Fabiolo all supposedly intended runners. His best chance, assuming the predicted running plans of sending Sir Gerhard up in trip come to pass, will be current Supreme second favourite Dysart Dynamo

He seems to be blessed with a rare turn of foot and has had his trainer, who has seen it all in this game, waxing lyrical over his ability after he followed in the footsteps of the aforementioned Supreme winners in romping to Moscow Flyer Novices' Hurdle success at Punchestown in January. If as anticipated he is the mount of Paul Townend and lines up for this race, expect the Mullins Day One punters to hammer Dysart Dynamo into favouritism and judging by the horse's brilliant on track performances so far do not be surprised to see Willie Mullins 1-0 The Rest after the curtain raiser of the Festival.

Gaelic Warrior - Fred Winter Juvenile Hurdle

There is definitely no favourite at the Festival with more to prove than Gaelic Warrior, who were he to be housed with any other representative of the training ranks would surely be a double-figured price for this contest. Not seen on track in Britain or Ireland, but boasting some smart French form, he was bought by the Ricci's and promptly transferred to Willie Mullins yard to begin his career on these shores. Upon seeing his mark of 129 the trainer has wisely decided to preserve him in preparation for this race and it is not unreasonable to assume this exciting recruit could have double figure pounds in hand. There is no race more suited to horse's with this type of profile all week but the juice in the price has surely gone now despite the potential he has to bolt up.

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Stattler - National Hunt Chase

After his Albert Bartlett fourth in 2021, many shrewd judges pinpointed the National Hunt Chase as the obvious target for Stattler once embarking on his novice chase career. Stamina is clearly his forte, however he is not short of speed either and looks to have the perfect blend for this contest now it has shortened slightly from its days as the gruelling four mile contest it once was. With the chirping of son Patrick in his ear imploring him to send Stattler to this amateur riders only contest and let him take the ride, it is unsurprising Willie Mullins has had this race in mind for much of the winter and in his joust for favouritism with Run Wild Fred expect Stattler to come out on top if Mullins starts the Festival in flying form. 

These two dominate the market and it could be an epic renewal of the race if both perform to their optimum at the maximum trip for novices at Prestbury Park, but it is Stattler who has the edge in my book and this could be another winner to seal a memorable first day for Team Mullins.

Sir Gerhard - Ballymore Novices' Hurdle

Previously mentioned in the preview of the Supreme Novices' Hurdle, Sir Gerhard is widely expected to sidestep the Tuesday opener in favour of Wednesday's to ensure Mullins has a top tier runner in both contests. There is some conjecture over which horse would suit which contest better but it seems the growing consensus is the 2m5f test will help Sir Gerhard on the jumping front and will allow him to exemplify his stamina as well as his potent turn of foot. Currently best price 11/8 with the NRMB firms, expect Mullins' charge to go off odds-on for this contest if as expected he is the Ballymore representative. Although there are some interesting rivals in the shape of Journey with Me and Ginto Sir Gerhard looks one of Mullins' best chances of the week. Champion Bumper winners often thrive over longer trips than the two miles of that contest and that record is another tick in Sir Gerhard's column for this race.

Galopin Des Champs - Brown Advisory Novices' Chase

This profile comes with the reddest of red flags possible, as recently Willie Mullins has been indicating that the odds-on favourite for this three mile chase will sidestep the contest in favour of a pulsating battle with Bob Olinger in the Turners Novices' Chase on the following day over 2m5f. Assuming that happens, many will be deprived of seeing Galopin Des Champs over what most would consider his optimum trip and it has certainly raised the eyebrow of many a racing fan. Were Galopin Des Champs to line up here instead he would have an outstanding chance of backing up last year's Martin Pipe success with another victory at the Festival. He looks a relentless galloper and his chase debut was nothing short of spectacular with a round of jumping the quality of which has scarcely been seen from a debutant before. Whichever race he runs in he will have his army of followers and a leading chance but in this scribe's humble opinion (and who am I to tell WIllie Mullins where to run a horse) Galopin Des Champs should be running in and winning this race not the Turners.

Facile Vega - Champion Bumper

It wouldn't be a Cheltenham Festival without a Willie Mullins hotpot in the Bumper touted for superstardom. That honour this season looks set to be bestowed upon Facile Vega, a stunningly impressive twelve length victor at Leopardstown back in early February. Mullins has other well fancied runners such as Mercurey, Redemption Day and James's Gate, but Facile Vega should be the number one choice for the stable and will probably be a shades of odds-on if the Closutton trainer is having a good week up until that point. Despite the obvious 'wow' factor displayed on his last performance and the huge potential for more improvement, this is a Mullins favourite I would be opposing due to the presence of one horse in opposition, American Mike for Gordon Elliott. He looked every bit as impressive if not more so than Facile Vega when last seen in late 2021 at Navan and with an odds comparison at the moment of 10/11 versus 11/4, the choice is clear and it is not to take on the Mullins jolly with the expected mount of revered bumper pilot Jamie Codd.

Allaho - Ryanair Chase

Allaho wins the Ryanair Chase for the second year running on Thursday 17 March. The end.

In truth that is all anyone needs to say about this contest when previewing and analysing the race. His monstrous performance in this race last year means he is the master trainer's banker of the week and it is nigh on impossible to see anything in the field troubling him if he runs to within ten pounds of his best. Sit back, relax and hopefully enjoy another thrilling exhibition from this Cheveley Park owned superstar. Mullins has a live place contender in Janadil who could very well be ridden to pick up the pieces behind his illustrious stablemate and in the without Allaho markets he could be one to side with, particularly if horses from rival yards decide to try and take Allaho on from the front and pay the price. 

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Brandy Love - Mares Novices' Hurdle

A race that has been a happy hunting ground for the Mullins team is the Mares Novices' Hurdle, with stars such as Limini, Let's Dance and Laurina romping home in the past to bring glory to the stable. He is unsurprisingly mob-handed for this year's contest and the mare atop the market currently is Brandy Love. Beaten last time out by stablemate and another entrant in this race Allegorie De Vassy, the case for a reversal of form seems to hinge on the fact Brandy Love has shown a propensity to hang and jump left, something which should be less of an issue at Cheltenham than it was at the right handed Fairyhouse. If this is enough to bridge the three and a half length gap to Allegorie De Vassy remains to be seen and with such a plethora of other entrants in the race Brandy Love is not one of Mullins' stronger favourites of the week. Grangee took a fall in the aforementioned race at Fairyhouse but looked to be travelling well and at a much bigger price looks to be a better value bet for the Closutton stable.

Vauban - Triumph Hurdle

The final Mullins favourite under the microscope is Vauban, a juvenile hurdler who made lightwork of previous race favourite Fil Dor in the Spring Juvenile Hurdle at Leopardstown in early February. Usually, a performance like this would guarantee outright favouritism for a race at the Festival, however Vauban was beaten previously by Gordon Elliott's Pied Piper and he has since successfully conquered Cheltenham, with the all important course form now a tick in Pied Piper's column that Vauban cannot match. With a victory over Vauban earlier in the season far from assuring his supremacy, especially when it comes to juvenile runners, the two sit closely matched both in form and in price. However, with Vauban slightly shorter odds than Pied Piper he is a Mullins runner to take on as the fourth and final day begins, with Pied Piper just fancied to shade the rematch and give the Elliott yard a winner over his rival.


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