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Willie Mullins outlines hopes and dreams for Cheltenham contenders

Mon 26 Feb 2018

Willie Mullins has assembled another formidable team of 50-plus horses for next month's Cheltenham Festival.

After seeing some of the big guns strut their stuff on the gallops on a brisk morning in County Carlow, our man Ashley Iveson was among the assembled press welcomed into the champion trainer's front room for a warming coffee or whiskey and to discuss some of his leading hopes for the four-day extravaganza in the Cotswolds.

 

NOVICE HURDLERS

"Getabird was very good in Punchestown the last day. He picked the Supreme Novices' (Hurdle) for himself by winning so nicely and I think he's improving all the time.

"He's not as flashy at home as the likes of Douvan. Even working the other day I wasn't impressed, but Sonny Carey rides him every day and he said he's in great order.

"Samcro looks an Irish banker for Cheltenham in the Ballymore, but what can we do? We can't just run them all in other races.

"I'm aiming Next Destination at the Ballymore. It was a messy race in Naas the last day and I think the stronger gallop at Cheltenham will suit.

"Sharjah disappointed the last day. I think the ground was softer than we thought. He could go for the Supreme.

"Real Steel I'd imagine will go in the Ballymore. Ballyward will go for the Albert Bartlett. Brahma Bull I have pencilled in for the Bartlett and Carter McKay could go for the Ballymore or the Albert Bartlett.

"Duc Des Genievres is in all the novices. Noel Fehily rode him the last day and was happy to go up in trip with him. I'd say the Bartlett might be the race for him, rather than the Ballymore, but he can go for either one.

"Fabulous Saga goes for the Albert Bartlett for the same owners.

"Laurina goes for the mares' novice. She looks really good. We brought her to Tramore for her first run, just because the race was there and it suited her.

"She is top-class and she's one we're looking forward to getting over there."

 

JUVENILES

"Mr Adjudicator goes for the Triumph Hurdle. He had a bit of a cold last week but he seems to be over that now and he's as fit as a flea.

"Saldier did everything right the other day and he goes for the Triumph, as does Stormy Ireland.

"Mr Adjudicator has done it (at Grade One level) and he has that Flat form as well. Saldier and Stormy Ireland wouldn't have the same racing experience, never mind jumping experience.

"It was a huge performance from Stormy Ireland in Limerick. I don't know what the time was and the ground was very bad, but she just kept galloping and pulling out more."

 

NOVICE CHASERS

"Bonbon Au Miel I think is an RSA-type. Al Boum Photo could go for that or the JLT. I'm not sure whether I'll divide them or let them both go for the RSA.

"Bonbon has only had two runs over fences, but his last run was very good and we're very happy with him.

"Invitation Only is another one that you're looking either JLT or RSA.

"Rathvinden could go RSA or the four-miler (National Hunt Chase). The four-miler might be the way we'll go with him."

 

OLDER HURDLERS

"Augusta Kate is in the Mares' Hurdle and the Stayers' Hurdle. She was second to Presenting Percy in the Galmoy Hurdle in Gowran and I thought that run would be good enough to let her take her chance in the Stayers' Hurdle, so we'll have a look at that and we have the Mares' Hurdle as a back-up.

"Bacardys goes for the Stayers' Hurdle as does Penhill. All Penhill's work has been good and the aim all year was to try and get him to Cheltenham and Punchestown.

"I think I fancy a crack at the Mares' Hurdle with Benie Des Dieux.

"Let's Dance could go for the Mares' Hurdle or the Stayers' Hurdle. She hasn't fired at all this season.

"Vroum Vroum Mag goes for the Mares' Hurdle. We didn't think we'd have her back, but she's in great shape."

 

CHAMPION BUMPER CONTENDERS

"We have Hollowgraphic, and Blackbow has galloped himself into the picture.

"Squadron Commander and Tornado Flyer both won well and we put them away.

"Carefully Selected galloped himself into the picture at Naas on Sunday. It might be too soon to go to Cheltenham, but we'll see. When I said to Patrick (Mullins) that win puts him on the list, he said 'he was on my list all the time'. He obviously has more faith in him than I did.

"To me, what Hollowgraphic did in Punchestown was a very good performance. He has to come back to the track as we've minded him to go to Cheltenham.

"Blackbow has produced two very good performances."

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