Cheltenham 2015: Mullins' Don Poli deserves mantle of favouritism as extended trip will looks good fit
Trainer Willie Mullins made no secret of his preference to run Don Poli in today's four-mile National Hunt Chase rather than in tomorrow's more prestigious Grade One RSA sponsored novice chase but despite insisting that he is forever guided by the champion trainer, it looks like the six-year-old's owner Michael O'Leary has got his own way on this occasion.
Mullins previously won the Martin Pipe Conditional Hurdle with Sir Des Champs who developed into a close Gold Cup contender and Don Poli seems to be cut from the same cloth, having won that race last year. And, like Sir Des Champs, he is described as a horse who only does what he has to do in his races.
Don Poli is a short-priced favourite but deservingly so.
He's had just the two starts over fences this season and was overturned by Beat That at Punchestown in a novice hurdle at the end of the last campaign but the extended three-mile trip will suit him down to the ground and it's very hard to look beyond him.
Proceedings could begin with a Gigginstown winner trained by Mullins in the Neptune Investments Novices' Hurdle as Outlander looks to have the profile of a horse who will relish Cheltenham and the conditions.
The Champion Bumper is a race that Mullins has dominated like nobody else and with seven runners in tomorrow's renewal, he's going gung-ho to enhance his record.
At the time of going to print, it looked like Bordini was set to be the pick of Patrick Mullins, but by the jockey's own admission in The Herald on Monday, there's little separating any of them.
So the selection from this corner is going to be Pylonthepressure who is two from two in bumpers and could be tailor made for the Cheltenham hill, having won a point-to-point as well.
It's hard to say that the Irish juvenile hurdlers are an exceptional bunch this season but the Alan Fleming trained Gwencily Berbas may be one that is ahead of the British handicapper.
A French recruit who made a winning debut at Fairyhouse for owner Barry Connell and Fleming, he will have to step up again to win here at Cheltenham.
But having had the option of going in the Triumph Hurdle as well, the temptation to exploit what could be a lenient handicap mark looks the right option.