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Dublin: 4°C Sunday 16 May 2021

Just how many races can Willie Mullins win at Cheltenham this year?

He won eight last year, can he come close in 2016?

Mullins and Walsh could have lots of reasons to celebrate next week.
Mullins and Walsh could have lots of reasons to celebrate next week.
Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

“I THINK PEOPLE are crediting us with things that are nearly impossible. The amount of expectation that is put up by the media is huge and we try not to get carried away with it. We keep a balanced view on our horses, we don’t worry too much about the other horses.

“It’s just about getting them there in one piece, and as we’ve seen recently, that can be hard enough.We go in hope, but others go there expecting us to have four or eight winners. But eight is a huge amount. In those championship races, all it can take is one mistake and the favourite doesn’t win all the time.”

Those are the words of Willie Mullins during a recent tour of his impressive Carlow stables but, with an arsenal of 60 odd horses travelling to Prestbury Park next week, would anyone be surprised if he equals or betters last year’s record haul of eight winners?

Below is a guide to Mullins’ chances over the four days.

Tuesday 15 March

Annie Power ridden by Ruby Walsh Is it a case of 'if Annie Power jumps clear, she wins'? Source: James Crombie/INPHO

A good chance

1.30 Supreme Novices Hurdle
The record of short-priced favourites in this race goes against Min (7/4) but Mullins is lucky enough to have Yorkhill as part of his ‘b-team’ so Mullins should be looking at a fourth win in four years in this race.

2.10 Arkle Challenge Trophy
With Douvan a best-priced 2/5, it will be some shock if Mullins is not in the winner’s enclosure after this race.

3.30 Champion Hurdle
Having lost Faugheen and Arctic Fire, it’s incredible that Mullins still have the favourite in this race and if Annie Power can get around, Mullins really believes she can win.

4.10 OLBG Mares’ Hurdle
Five races into the festival and Mullins could well land his fourth winner with the impressive Vroum Vroum Mag (11/10) the class horse in the race.

In with a sniff

5.30 Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase
McKinley (14/1) was expected to have some joy in the Martin Pipe last year but finished 11th under Patrick Mullins. Has a win an second place in two of his three trips over the chase fences but looks more an each-way punt than a winner.

Save your money

2.50 Ultima Handicap Chase
The first of the chase handicaps, Mullins has never won this race and doesn’t look likely to change that record this year.

4.50 National Hunt Chase
Mullins won this with Back In Focus in 2013 and has a good chance if Black Hercules can last the four miles. That’s an if with a capital I, however.

Total winners – 4

Wednesday 16 March

Ruby Walsh clears a fence on Un de Sceaux Un De Sceuax's odds might well put people off. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

A good chance

3.30 Queen Mother Champion Chase
If there’s a banker on day two of the festival, it’s Un De Sceaux though his prohibitive odds of 8/11 will put many casual race fans off.

5.30 Cheltenham Champion Bumper
Augusta Kate — owned by a syndicate including Lee Westwood, Alan Shearer and Ant & Dec — has won her only two races by a combined 30 lengths.

In with a sniff

1.30 Neptune Novices Hurdle 
Mullins throws a few darts at this one with A Toi Phil (6/1) the best on paper. Long Dog (10/1) and Bleu et Rouge (12/1) not without their chances.

2.50 Coral Cup
Another race with a high number of Mullins’ entries, Arbre De Vie (10/1) in the Rich Ricci colours will tempt many punters.

Save your money

2.10 RSA Chase
Don Poli won this for Mullins last year but More of That (2/1) for Jonjo O’Neill will take some beating if he opts for this over the JLT.

4.10 Cross Country Chase
Again, a JP McManus owned horse has the better of anything Mullins offers in this race with Josies Orders (5/2) a specialist over the marathon distance.

4.50 Fred Winter Hurdle
Voix Du Reve (16/1) has a chance depending on weights but this might be another one worth sitting out for Mullins’ backers.

Total winners – 6

Thursday 17 March

Willie Mullins Stable Visit - Closutton Limini on the gallops in Carlow. Source: PA Archive/Press Association Images

A good chance

2:50 Ryanair Chase
Valseur Lido (4/1) is owned by Gigginstown and, of course, Michael O’Leary obviously sponsors the race but has yet to manage a win in it. This could be the year.

5:30 Dawn Run Mares Novices Hurdle
Mullins says that Limini (10/11) is a “far better jumper now” than she was when she won by 11 lengths in Fairyhouse in February.

In with a sniff

1:30 JLT Novices Chase
If More of That (5/2) opts for the the RSA instead, Bristol De Mai (7/2) poses a real threat to Outlander (9/2) and Shaneshill (9/2) but they both have a shot.

Save your money

2:10 Pertemps Final Hurdle
One to just sit back and enjoy if you’re a Mullins’ backer.

3:30 Ryanair World Hurdle
Another race that has escaped Mullins over the years and a winner this year doesn’t look very likely with his three best chances (Annie Power, Vroum Vroum Mag and Nichols Canyon) opting to ride their luck elsewhere.

4:10 Brown Advisory Festival Plate
May as well not be taking place for Mullins’ fans.

4:50 Kim Muir Challenge Cup
Urano (25/1) finished first last time out but that was over two miles, three furlongs rather than the three miles, one and a half facing the horses in this particular race.

Total winners – 8

Friday 18 March

Ruby Walsh onboard Vautour celebrates winning Can Mullins finally claim a Gold Cup with Vautour? Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

A good chance

2:50 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle
During the recent yard visit, Mullins spoke up the chances of Gangster (7/1) but also saved a lot of praise for Thomas Hobson (12/1) who, he said, could be “a class horse in that race.”

3:30 Cheltenham Gold Cup
Will this finally be the year that Mullins wins the Gold Cup? In Vautour (5/1), Djakadam 5/1) and Don Poli (11/2) he has his chances. Can any of them get by Don Cossack (7/2) though?

In with a sniff

1:30 JCB Triumph Hurdle
A lot of the build up will revolve around Ivanovich Gorbatov (9/2) and Joseph O’Brien and Zubayr (9/2) can’t be ignored but Mullins is very keen on Footpad’s (14/1) chances in the opening race on the final day.

2:10 County Handicap Hurdle
With potentially nine entries in the race, Mullins could well come out with a winner. Great Field (10/1) and Townshend (14/1) could be worth an each way punt but Dicosimo (20/1) shouldn’t be to far from your thoughts.

4:50 Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Hurdle
A race Mullins has won two years in succession, Blazer (14/1) represents his best chance of making it a hat-trick.

Save your money

4:10 Foxhunter Steeple Chase
You can spend the time this race is on counting your Gold Cup winnings.

5:30 Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase
The oldest race at the festival and not one Mullins backers will be too concerned about.

Total winners – 10

There you go. Double figure winners. It seems very unlikely but, if anyone can do it, Willie Mullins could well be the one.

All prices and entries are correct at time of publication. However, both are subject to change. 

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Steve O'Rourke

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