Five Willie Mullins flyers to follow at Cheltenham 2015

In anticipation to the greatest show on earth, we look ahead to the best bets from Willie Mullins’ magnificent Cheltenham string.

WILLIE MULLINS MAY have his strongest ever hand to pick from at this year’s Cheltenham Festival with over 50 horses set to make the trip to Prestbury Park but unfortunately with only 27 races they can’t all make it into the winners enclosure.

This has led the42 to cut the shortlist down to the cream of the Carlow handler’s crop with the five horses most likely to help punters fill their boots and stay financially afloat during the those four turbulent days.

While any Tom, Dick or Harry could tip up the likes of Faugheen, Un De Sceaux and Annie Power, history would suggest that backing jollies at short odds in big championship races is a fast track to the poor house so we’ve opted for value.

Douvan (Tuesday, Supreme Novices’ Hurdle) 7/4

Mullins trained his maiden winner at the Cotswolds 20 years ago in this very race and the champion trainer has the hot favourite Douvan this year.

Eight-time Festival top jockey Ruby Walsh will be in the saddle on the Rich Ricci-owned five-year-old who has done everything that has been asked of him on the racecourse with consummate ease.

The French recruit dished out a 12-length beating to subsequent Grade 1 scorer Sizing John on his Irish debut at Gowran Park in November and made a mockery of a Punchestown Grade 2 on his last run when winning on the bridle.

The Kilkenny native stated this week that all he wants is a winner on Tuesday and he looks likely to get the punters off to a flyer and make it three wins in a row after victories for Champagne Fever and Vautour, both of whom are also highly fancied in their respective races this year.

Ruby Walsh and Willie Mullins celebrate winning The dream team of Ruby Walsh and Willie Mullins will be hoping to get the Cheltenham Festival off to a flyer with Douvan in the opening race. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Nichols Canyon (Wednesday, Neptune Novices’ Hurdle) 9/2

A Listed winner on the flat when trained by John Gosden, the son of Authorized came to Closesutton with a glowing reputation and the Graham Wylie-owned hurdler has rarely disappointed.

He fluffed his lines at Christmas when unseating behind Sizing John but the five-year-old compensated his many followers with a smooth success in the Deloitte at the Hennessy meeting beating Windsor Park and Mullins’ hot favourite Alvisio Ville.

For a horse who has been compared by his owner to triple-World Hurdle winner Inglis Drever, his price suggests he’s coming in under the radar somewhat in a race won by current Champion Hurdle favourite Faugheen last year.

There is definite each-way value to be had as it’s hard to see him outside of the top three and he looks the sort to relish the undulations of the Cheltenham hill. English challenger Parlour Games and Mullins’ stablemate Outlander pose a challenge but this could be one of the bets of the week.

Ruby Walsh onboard Nichols Canyon wins Nichols Canyon spring heels the last en route to victory in the Grade 1 Deloitte Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown in February. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Don Poli (Wednesday, RSA Chase) 7/2

All the talk is of the strength Mullins’ Tuesday string but his runners on day two are exceptional value and of the highest quality, led by Don Poli who Mullins rates as a future Gold Cup horse.

The Gigginstown House Stud-owned runner ticks so many boxes with stamina in abundance and previous course form to his name with his 2014 win in the Martin Pipe Conditional Hurdle when storming up the famous hill.

Bryan Cooper’s mount faces stiff competition from David Pipe’s King’s Palace and blue riband entry Coneygree but the six-year-old has never finished outside the top two in any of his eight runs and is remarkably reliable.

Mullins looks set to swerve a tilt at the National Hunt Chase over four miles and having handed Noel Meade’s future Grade 1 winner Apache Stronghold a beating in the Topaz Novice Chase at Christmas he looks one to keep on the right side of.

Bryan Cooper onboard Don Poli clears the last fence on his way to winning Bryan Cooper will be hoping for a clear round of jumping when the much-heralded Don Poli tackles some-similarly smart rivals in the RSA Chase. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Bordini – (Wednesday, Champion Bumper) 7/1

Mullins has farmed this race in recent years, winning four of the last ten renewals, and he tops the list of entries with eight of the 46 early declarations.

In what is one of the meeting’s most competitive races, the 58-year-old’s ability to keep producing horses to perform to a high level is extraordinary and the answer to this year’s bumper riddle could be Bordini.

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Installed as favourite on the back of his wins at Punchestown and Naas, the five-year-old will be three months off the track when the white flag is raised.

Willie, who has 33 Festival wins already in his training career, is the master of getting horses to their peak for big championship races and could well plunder another valuable pot in the final race of the second day.

Rich Ricci and Willie Mullins celebrate winning Rich Ricci (left) has an excellent team of horses travelling to Cheltenham in the care of trainer Willie Mullins and Bordini is favourite to score in Wednesday's bumper. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Petite Parisienne – (Friday, Triumph Hurdle) 10/1

Amazingly Willie has only a sole win to his name in the Triumph and much like the elusive Gold Cup, which he has never won, it has not been a happy hunting ground.

Heavy favourite Peace And Co, for Nicky Henderson and Barry Geraghty, seems to have scared off some of the opposition but in a strongly-run championship race his inability to settle could cost him badly against Petite Parisienne.

And despite handing out a decisive defeat to stablemate Kalkir at Leopardstown in February, the Gigginstown-owned runner is still available at a tasty double figure odds.

The four-year-old came on massively for a somewhat unlucky second place run at Punchestown on New Year’s Eve and having jumped fluently and settled well at Leopardstown, this looks to be a massive each way punt.

Petite Parisienne ridden by Bryan Cooper comes home to win ahead of Kalkir ridden by Ruby Walsh Bryan Cooper and Petite Parisienne have the measure of Ruby Walsh and Kalkir at Leopardstown but can they best Peace And Co at Cheltenham? Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

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Michael Verney

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