Willie Mullins' embarrassment of riches heading into the 2016 Cheltenham Festival has seen him installed as a long odds-on favourite for the top trainer crown at the four-day National Hunt extravaganza, but while some of his Closutton-based hotpots can saunter to victory, we pick out a few short-priced jollies that could come unstuck in our Bankers v Blowouts preview.
Min - Supreme Novices' Hurdle - 13/8
Min could turn out to be the next equine machine off the Willie Mullins production line, but at 13/8 with Paddy Power for the Supreme Novices' Hurdle, it has to be worth taking on the Rich Ricci-owned five-year-old in the Cheltenham Festival curtain-raiser. He has impressed on his two wins in Ireland this season, and will be attempting to land the Supreme for the triumvirate of Messrs Mullins, Walsh and Ricci for the fourth year running, but with the likes of Altior, Buveur D'air and Tombstone all catching the eye as primary challengers, then Min could have his name etched alongside the likes of Dunguib and Cue Card in terms of being a Supreme short-priced loser.
Douvan - Arkle Challenge Trophy - 1/2
If the word Douvan were ever to make into the dictionary then the definition 'Banker' would surely accompany it. Arguably the finest thoroughbred in the star-studded Mullins stable, last year's Supreme Novices' Hurdle winner can make it back-to-back Cheltenham Festival wins, as not only will he scare most rivals off, as they veer towards the JLT Novices' Chase, but the ones left to take him on in the 2016 Arkle Challenge Trophy will be scrounging for minor honours, as he saunters clear to maintain his perfect record in the National Hunt sphere.
Faugheen - Champion Hurdle - 2/5
If Faugheen jumps the first flight of hurdles in front in the Champion Hurdle, then we may as well just stop the bout and call the 'Machine' the winner by technical knockout. His Morgiana Hurdle defeat on his comeback run may have blotted his copybook, but with authoritative wins in the Christmas Hurdle and Irish Champion Hurdle highlighted his dominance in the two-mile hurdling division, the eight-year-old can sparkle once again, and will not be touched in the opening day showpiece on March 15.
Annie Power - Mares' Hurdle - 8/11
You could hear a pin drop when Annie Power suffered a final flight tumble in last year's Mares' Hurdle, as the bookmaking world dodged a catastrophic opening day bullet with the previous three Mullins-trained favourites delivering. However, this year Annie Power, who is yet to taste Cheltenham Festival success, can finally have her day on the limelight at GL50, as she is in a different stratosphere to her female adversaries, and with Vroum Vroum Mag likely to bypass this event then Annie Power can hand Mullins an opening day treble.
Black Hercules - National Hunt Chase - 4/1
Two previous visits to the Cheltenham Festival for Black Hercules has seen the seven-year-old finish fourth in the 2014 Champion Bumper and seventh in the 2015 Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle, so who's to say that the unbeaten novice chaser can make it third time lucky in the four-miler National Hunt Chase, which takes place on day one. A Listed win over solid yardstick Definitly Red is decent form, but it's certainly not first-rate form that deserves him a quote of 4/1 with bet365 for the marathon event, and with a competitive field to line up then his poor record on the undulating track can continue and he can make it a hat-trick of defeats at the 'Greatest Show On Turf'.
Un De Sceaux - Champion Chase - 4/5
Shall we just agree on the fact that if Un De Sceaux jumps round in the Queen Mother Champion Chase then he wins. Many have tried to pick holes in last year's Arkle winner's form, but his cruising speed is sure to have the old guard of Sire De Grugy and Sprinter Sacre struggling to keep up, and if he can repeat his faultless win in the Clarence House Chase at Ascot then he can brush his rivals aside with aplomb and land the two-mile Championship prize.
Killultagh Vic - JLT Novices' Chase - 5/2
Killultagh Vic has blossomed over fences this season and the 2015 Martin Pipe winner deserves to be at he head of the betting for the JLT Novices' Chase, but he could face the toughest assignment of the Mullins-trained chasers and is one to avoid. I am a huge fan of the horse and his progressive profile means he will be the one to beat, but this year's JLT could have the most strength in depth, with the two-milers aiming to stretch their stamina to avoid a clash with Douvan in the Arkle, and with the likes of Bristol De Mai, Outlander, Shaneshill and Sizing John all potential runners then Killultagh Vic will have it all to do, so at the current price is not one to get too excited about, as he could quite easily be bigger on the day of the race.
Vautour - Ryanair Chase - 9/2 or Evens (Non Runner No Bet)
Vautour comes alive around Cheltenham in March, and whatever path he takes at this year's festival he will be a leading contender, but with the rumours circulating that he is Cheltenham Gold Cup bound then it would be difficult to get too excited about the 9/2 with Paddy Power for him to win the Ryanair Chase. However, punters can utilise the safety net provided by some bookmakers and bet365 are pricing up the dual festival winner at Evens for the Ryanair Chase, and offering non runner no bet, which will certainly be an attractive price come the day, with the race really lacking a class act.
Prediction: Banker (with a run)
Limini - Mares' Novice Hurdle - Evens
Could we have the new Quevega on our hands in the shape of Limini, who trounced her rivals at Fairyhouse last time out, and this five-year-old daughter of Peintre Celebre can continue on her path to stardom with a facile win in the Mares' Novice Hurdle. Mullins' dominance within the mares' division was always going to see him have the favourite for the inaugural running of the Mares' Novice Hurdle, but Limini looks a potential superstar mare and at Evens can land this prize with ease on the third day of the meeting.
Advised Mullins Accumulator For Cheltenham Festival
Douvan, Faugheen, Annie Power, Un De Sceaux, Limini all to win - £10 five-fold pays £121.90 with Betfair.com