Champion Irish trainer, Willie Mullins, is beginning to move through the gears as the National Hunt season gathers more momentum. The hugely successful trainer, who saddled four winners at last year’s Cheltenham Festival will hoping to better that tally in 2012 and will be reliant that at least three of those winners from last year will be capable of repeating the feat come March. Here are six of his best stable prospects that will be campaigned with tilts at the Festival in mind.
There is no doubt that the greatest two mile hurdler around right now will go off as the favourite to win the Champion Hurdle for a second successive year. As we all know, he saw off the challenge of three major contenders when winning the 2011 Champion Hurdle and did so with alarming ease. He is probably one of the bankers of the Festival who can be backed currently at 7/4 – a price that will only contract if he picks up where he left off last season when he makes his seasonal reappearance in a couple of weeks time.
What more can we say about this outstanding mare who has won the David Nicholson Mares Hurdle at the Festival for the last three years running. Mullins has confirmed that the same policy of not running her until the Festival will be maintained this year, which is a long wait for fans to see her but understandable as it has worked for the past two seasons. She is a best price of 6/4 for race and is sure to be shorter come the Festival.
Sir Des Champs
Unbeaten over hurdles, Sir Des Champs culminated his excellent campaign last season by winning the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockey Hurdle at the Festival, This year the hugely talented 5 year old will be aimed at the Novice Chases with a probable tilt at the Arkle Chase. Prices will be out for him after he has made his debut, probably in the Beginners Chase at Punchestown on 19th November.
An out and out stayer, Uncle Junior surprised many last week when winning the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase at Cheltenham last week, where he beat the very experienced Garde Champetre by 2½ lengths. Mullins had always believed that the ten year old would acquit himself well in races such as this, no matter what the going and his season’s target will be a repeat of the Open meeting course and distance success in the Cross Country Chase at the Festival.
Unbeaten in three ‘Bumpers’ last season, this German bred 5 year old will next be seen novice hurdling although Mullins has not as yet decided when this will be. By all accounts he is impressing everyone at home, he has great speed and his rate of improvement last season strongly suggest that the stable could have a real star in the making. Even without a hurdle win, Samain is a 20/1 shot for the Supreme Novice Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.
Having won two from three in decent Bumpers last season, and who has a win in a Point to Point to his name, this six year old could be one of the more versatile horses in the Mullins stable; particularly now after he dotted up in a maiden hurdle at Navan this week. Mullins intends to keep him over the smaller obstacles this season but he expects him to run a big race in the Grade One Royal Bond Hurdle at Fairyhouse in early December. A decision will be taken after that race as to what he targets for Cheltenham.