All of the best sports teams need a great coach to help get the most out of the players, and in horse racing it seems that the finest horses also need a sympathetic trainer to ensure that they reach the highest standards.
A great trainer can elevate the performance of their horses on the biggest stage, which perhaps explains why Willie Mullins continues to dominate the Cheltenham Festival.
With six winners at the March meeting in 2023, Mullins was once again crowned the leading trainer at the festival – if he can repeat that haul in 2024, he will become the first trainer to surpass 100 victories at the Prestbury Park showpiece, which is an extraordinary achievement.
So will the Irishman’s horses once again dominate the Cheltenham Festival?
Happy Hunting Ground
It would be factually incorrect to say that to bet on racing successfully would be to back Mullins’ runners blindly at Cheltenham, as the racing results confirm that his six wins from 28 races is a ratio that would see plenty of losing horses backed – even if his charges like Galopin des Champs, the +200 favorite in the Gold Cup, are fancied to win the most prestigious of renewals.
So impressive was the seven-year-old when winning the 2023 Gold Cup that he is considered one of the most likely horses to prevail for Mullins in 2024, while Allaho – the ever-impressive nine-year-old – is the early ante-post favorite for the Ryanair Chase, which he won by a handsome 14 lengths from Janidil earlier this year.
While Ryanair Chase glory seems more than likely, there should be a more ferocious battle for the Cheltenham Festival’s other standout renewal on day three – the Stayers’ Hurdle. The ante-post betting market makes Mullins’ Impaire Et Passe amongst the favorites, with the French horse following up his Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle success at this year’s meeting with victory in a Grade 1 race at Punchestown in April.
But leading the way is Teahupoo, trained by Mullins’ rival and compatriot Gordon Elliott, who tracked well in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle earlier this year as a youthful six-year-old.
Up and Running
The opening day of the Cheltenham Festival is arguably the best of the week as far as top-class racing is concerned, with no less than four elite races taking place. And, you won’t be surprised to learn, Mullins’ entries look set to be prominent as he bids to get his campaign up and running.
The early predictions for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle see Tullyhill, a horse that boasts the famous combination of Mullins on training duty and the Cheveley Park Stud as owners, amongst the most likely to prevail – of course, it’s hard to predict how these young horses will perform at the end of a long, hard season.
🗣"He looks an Arkle horse"— Racing TV (@RacingTV) November 1, 2023
An exciting campaign awaits for the @WillieMullinsNH stable star Facile Vega
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But Facile Vega is more experienced – he is expected to go off amongst the favored runners in the Arkle, while Lossiemouth is the ante post favorite in the Mares’ Hurdle too.
So, as ever, Mullins will be taking a strong squad over to England for the Cheltenham Festival. Can any other trainer stop him from dominating one of British racing’s key meetings once more?
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