Cheltenham 2015: Why Willie Mullins is the man to beat
Willie Mullins left Cheltenham yesterday with six winners so far this week - all of which have been Grade One winners - and with the potential to add to that today, his potential team for next year looks incredibly strong already.
Of the races that are so far priced up for next year’s Festival by BoyleSports, Mullins trains the favourite in each of them and his Gold Cup team contains horses that most people could only dream of.
Djakadam looks set to go off the shortest of the Irish contingent in today’s race and if the hype surrounding him turns out to be true, he’ll be back to potentially join “obvious” Gold Cup horses Vautour and Don Poli.
Don Poli was immediately installed as the 7/1 Gold Cup favourite after his impressive display in Wednesday’s RSA Chase which Mullins deemed to be the most emphatic of the trainer’s four winners in the race but he was headed in that market just 24 hours later when Vautour blitzed the field in the JLT Chase.
If all stand the test of time over the coming 12 months, Mullins’ biggest decisions will be how he keeps them all split up because depending on what happens in the Gold Cup today, he could have three real Gold Cup hopefuls in Djakadam, Don Poli and Vautour and that’s not to mention the possible return of 2013 runner-up Sir Des Champs and the likes of Valseur Lido who was third yesterday and should relish the step up in distance. Indeed, there are few in the Mullins camp that would argue against Vautour having the capabilities to go and win a Champion Chase because they really do feel he is that good - or indeed a Champion Hurdle - but as we saw this week, Mullins already has Un De Sceaux and Faugheen for that job.
When you take into account that Mullins has had six Grade One winners and that English-trained horses have yet to win a Grade One novice this week either over fences or hurdles so already there is a lot to look forward to for next year.
Meanwhile, back to reality tomorrow at Uttoexter where the Midlands National takes place and there are two Irish runners in this year’s renewal with Jim Dreaper sending over Goonyella and Sandra Hughes responsible for Raz De Maree.
After a good week at Cheltenham, including a winner for Rebecca Curtis, jockey Paul Townend is due to continue his association with the Welsh trainer as she has booked him to partner Bob Ford, but looking down through the field it really is hard to looks beyond the likely favourite Catching On who looks a real progressive type for Jonjo O’Neill and the one and only AP McCoy.