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Sunday 17 December 2017

Cheltenham 2015: Willie Mullins looks to have his strongest ever team assembled for festival

Hurricane Fly with jockey Ruby Walsh, trainer Willie Mullins, right, groom Gail Carlisle, and owner George Creighton, after winning the Ryanair Hurdle
Hurricane Fly with jockey Ruby Walsh, trainer Willie Mullins, right, groom Gail Carlisle, and owner George Creighton, after winning the Ryanair Hurdle

Ever since Tourist Attraction in 1995, Willie Mullins has gone on to train 33 winners at the Cheltenham Festival in total and claimed the leading trainer award at the meeting for three of the last four years.

WP Mullins could well be inscribed on the award again come the end of next week if the bookmakers are to be believed.

Hurricane Fly has given him some of his finest days there although Cousin Vinny winning the 2008 Champion Bumper with his son Patrick doing the steering is another to take pride of place.

The Cheltenham Gold Cup still eludes the Mullins outfit, however, and like the Champion Hurdle, he expects to throw three darts at that next week.

His comments about Douvan in the opening race of the week must be frightening for other trainers and if this 50-strong Mullins team lives up to expectations, well, there could be a movie in it... a horror movie for his training colleagues and the bookmakers.

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Willie Mullins will be hoping his battalion will start the way they mean to continue with Douvan in the first race.

“He could be one of the nicest horses we’ve ever taken to Cheltenham,” he said.

Champagne Fever has won there twice and been beaten a short-head.

“You’re going there with what could look an open enough Champion Chase and it might be the year to have a crack at it. If he doesn’t do it this year, he’s not going to do it next year.”

Faugheen “is doing everything right” and after asking Ruby Walsh about jumping experience he “didn’t feel he needed another run” ahead of the Champion Hurdle.

Hurricane Fly “has done everything that a clear favourite should. It’s just his age. (But) It can be done at 11 (winning a third Champion Hurdle.”

Don Poli “is very good” and Djakadam “probably has the best form of my three going into the Gold Cup.”

Un De Sceaux “beat anything he has taken on and he’s just the type of chaser you love to train.”

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