Willie Mullins Stable Tour: Cheltenham Festival 2020

Willie Mullins Horse Trainer

Willie Mullins Stable Tour: Cheltenham Festival 2020

The Cheltenham Festival is about being first past the winning post and nobody has trained more horses to do that than the maestro that is Willie Mullins.

A six-time champion at Cheltenham, he is the most successful trainer in the history of the meeting with 65 winners and counting as we head into the 2020 Festival.

Last year he added his first Gold Cup winner in the shape of Al Boum Photo and has plenty of stable stars set up to try and add to his incredible tally this March.

Luke Parkinson takes a look at the big names headlined the Mullins army at Cheltenham this season.

Al Boum Photo

  • 8-y-o; bay gelding
  • Form: 1R/11-21

Verdict: Returns to Prestbury Park to try and successfully defend his Gold Cup crown after running out a two-and-a-half length winner of the Festival showpiece just twelve months ago. He was a runner-up to Kemboy in the Punchestown Gold Cup the following month but has been lightly campaigned since then with a winning return coming at Tramore in January. It’s very much a case of ‘if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it’ as the Mullins team follow an almost identical prep to last year ahead of a race that has a similar make-up.

Al Boum Photo

Allaho

  • 6-y-o; bay gelding
  • Form: 413-221

Verdict: Ran well for a long way in the Albert Bartlett last year but didn’t quite have the staying power to match Minella Indo up the famous Cheltenham hill. The talk is that he’ll go for the RSA Chase this year, but you can’t help but feel this could be the latest instalment of Willie Mullins bingo. He’s been campaigned over much shorter this season, winning in good style over 2m5½f at Fairyhouse last time, and there must be a huge temptation to go for the Marsh on the Thursday.

Appreciate It

  • 6-y-o; bay gelding
  • Form: 311

Verdict: Third behind Envoi Allen in his first ever point-to-point, before getting off the mark in that sphere at Dromahane in March. He’s has had three runs in bumpers since then over different distances for Willie Mullins, including victories in his last two, most recently in a Grade Two at the Dublin Racing Festival. He’ll head to Cheltenham as one of Willie’s best chances and looks the one to beat in the Champion Bumper.

Asterion Forlonge

  • 6-y-o; grey gelding
  • Form: 1/111

Verdict: This lad has done nothing wrong in his career and remains unbeaten both under rules and in point-to-points. He landed his bumper at Thurles back in November and has gone from strength to strength since then over hurdles. Firstly, winning by 10 lengths at Naas and then by 9½ lengths in the Grade Once Chanelle Pharma Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown. The owners also have the Nicky Henderson-trained Shishkin, but make no bones about it, this man would be a serious challenger if he also lined up in the Supreme.

Benie Des Dieux

  • 9-y-o; bay mare
  • Form: 11/f-111

Verdict: A winner already at the Festival in 2018, she had the Mares Hurdle at her mercy last season only to come crashing down at the last. Other than that, she is unbeaten for Willie Mullins, including wins elsewhere at the Punchestown Festival and the Grande Course de Haies d’Auteuil in May. She’ll be aiming to put right those wrong from 12 months ago and they’ll be plenty backing her to do just that even if the talented Honeysuckle takes her on. Arguably, Mullins’ best chance of a winner at the meeting.

Carefully Selected

  • 8-y-o, bay gelding
  • Form: 3/1-3111

Verdict: Unbeaten in his last three starts over fences, including a 24-length victory over last year’s Ballymore winner City Island. The National Hunt Chase, of which he is ante-post favourite, has apparently been the plan for a long time and considering Mullins has had recent success in that race, you can see why the punters are showing interest. His jumping has been a bit patchy of late though and he could be one to take on in such a testing race.

Cash Back

  • 8-y-o; bay gelding
  • Form: 12-5112

Verdict: A winner in two of his three starts as a novice chaser, with the most eye catching one coming last time out in the Irish Arkle at the Dublin Racing Festival, where he was just a ¾-length behind Notebook. The pair are likely to meet again in the Arkle at Cheltenham, but Willie Mullins has stated that this horse reminds him of Un De Sceaux, meaning soft or heavy conditions could give him at real chance at the big meeting.

Chacun Pour Soi

  • 8-y-o; bay gelding
  • Form: 53/1-121

Verdict: He only made his debut for Willie Mullins at Naas last March, consequently missing Cheltenham, but really came to fruition when beating Defi Su Seuil in the Ryanair Novice Chase at the Punchestown Festival last year. That has put him in the mix alongside the big boys in the two-mile division this season, and although he would have needed the run when second to A Plus Tard at Leopardstown in December, he was back with a bang with a convincing victory over Min at the same track in February, proving he doesn’t necessarily need good ground. He might not have the experience of Altior or Defi Du Seuil, but he’s a big player nonetheless.

Cilaos Emery

  • 8-y-o; bay gelding
  • Form: 2/1-11F1

Verdict: Unbeaten in all three of his completed starts over fences, but a fall at the first fence in the Dublin Chase has led to connections having another crack over hurdles. He boosted that idea by winning the Red Mills Hurdle at Gowran Park recently and the plan is to now supplement him for what is a wide-open Champion Hurdle. He wouldn’t be without a chance based on the best of his novice hurdle form, notably winning the Champion Novice Hurdle at Punchestown, but there is a bit to be desired on the rest of his results over hurdles.

Easy Game

  • 6-y-o; bay gelding
  • Form: 83-7212

Verdict: Made a good start to life as a novice hurdler in Ireland but couldn’t quite match that when stepped up to Grade One company at Cheltenham, Fairyhouse and then Punchestown last spring. He reappeared with a distant second-place effort to Honeysuckle over hurdles in November, before really finding his groove when switched to fences in December – beating Allaho at Leopardstown. He has since finishing a close second to Faugheen at the Dublin Racing Festival and has the Marsh or the RSA in his sights.

Faugheen

  • 12-y-o; bay gelding
  • Form: F3P-111

Verdict: There were fears that Faugheen had lost his way for good last season, but the current campaign has shown that the machine is well and truly back in working order. Three outings over fences have yielded three victories, including one over Samcro and another in the Grade One Flogas Novice Chase at the Dublin Racing Festival. The reaction he got from racing fans at Leopardstown that day was nothing short of sensational, and they’ll be no more celebrated winner if he does add to his unbeaten run with victory at Cheltenham, with the RSA the most likely destination.

Kemboy

  • 8-y-o; bay gelding
  • Form: 1U1-142

Verdict: Started the season as the ante-post favourite for the Cheltenham Gold Cup but issues with the syndicate that owned him, meant he was unable to run for the first past of the campaign. That meant the Betway Bowl and Punchestown Gold Cup winner wasn’t seen until finishing fourth in the Savills Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas. He was better again when a close second to Delta Work in the Paddy Power Irish Gold Cup and with improvement still likely, he looks an each-way player if he can get some better ground.

Kemboy

Lamarckise

  • 5-y-o, chestnut mare
  • Form: 3/1

Verdict: The best could still be yet to come for this nice mare who is very highly regarded by Willie Mullins. She didn’t exactly live up to that hype when making hard work of winning a fairly ordinary race at Limerick last time, but the reports since have said that she isn’t easy to train and really needed that run. The Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle is her obvious target for Cheltenham and considering Willie Mullins has a 100% record in that race, you’d be a brave punter to rule her out.

Melon

  • 8-y-o; chestnut gelding
  • Form: F-70214

Verdict: A solid yardstick, particularly when it comes to the Cheltenham Festival where he has now been placed in the Supreme and two renewals of the Champion Hurdle. He has been switched to fences this campaign, winning just one of his three starts. The latest of those was a 40-length fourth in the Arkle Novice Chase and that means he’ll need to show a little bit more to extend his good sequence at the Festival. The Marsh is the supposed target.

Min

  • 9-y-o; bay gelding
  • Form: 151-212

Verdict: A classy individual who is five-time Grade One winner. The latest of those came in the John Durkan over 2m4f at Punchestown in December, before finishing second to Chacun Pour Soi over two miles in the Dublin Chase last time. With Rich Ricci owning both of those big names, its likely they’ll be kept apart, and with Min winning over slightly further already this season, he could be sent for the Ryanair Chase.

Monkfish

  • 6-y-o; chestnut gelding
  • Form: P/1-2211

Verdict: A winning point-to-pointer, who has won his last two starts over hurdles for Willie Mullins, including a 20-length victory at Thurles last time. He’s quite a lightly framed horse, who is tall and a bit gangly, suggesting him might get better with time. The Albert Bartlett is the plan for this season however, and they’ll be plenty of Irish shouting him up the hill.

Penhill

  • 9-y-o; bay gelding
  • Form: 12/6322

Verdict: Without a win since landing the Stayers Hurdle as a 12/1 shot back in 2018 but isn’t without a chance heading to Cheltenham after a fairly positive season so far. He was last of six on his reappearance but has stepped up since then finishing third in the Grade One Frank Ward Memorial, and second in both the Galmoy Hurdle and Boyne Hurdle. He now only holds an entry in the Stayers, but it would be an almighty shock to see him get the better of Paisley Park.

Sharjah

  • 7-y-o; bay gelding
  • Form: 11B-416

Verdict: He showed some real class in late 2018, winning the Morgiana Hurdle and the Ryanair Hurdle in convincing fashion. He’s blown hot and cold since then with his recent form showing just one win in four outings. That came in the Matheson Hurdle at Leopardstown over Christmas where he was an eye-catching winner over Petit Mouchoir and Coeur Sublime. However, he ran a stinker last time in the Irish Champion Hurdle, and it would be a case of hit and hope if you fancy backing him at Cheltenham.

Stormy Ireland

  • 6-y-o; bay mare
  • Form: 2-26111

Verdict: A talented mare who has won all three starts over hurdles this season, including two Grade Three’s. The latest of those who was over stablemate Franco De Port, who could be one to follow in the Coral Cup or the County Hurdle at the Festival. Stormy Ireland, though, will head for the Mares Hurdle where she’ll have a job on her hands if both Benie Des Dieux and Honeysuckle turn up.

The Big Getaway

  • 6-y-o; bay gelding
  • Form: ½-2141

Verdict: Another winning point-to-pointer who looks like he will really come of age over fences. Despite that, he has made a promising start to life under rules and has won two of his three starts, albeit nothing at the very top level just yet. He is entered in the Ballymore and the Albert Bartlett, with the first of those currently the plan. That would mean a likely battle with Envoi Allen, and he needs to improve to get the better of him.

Un De Sceaux

  • 12-y-o; bay gelding
  • Form: 1/25-122

Verdict: He has spent the majority of this season battling with Defi Du Seuil, and very nearly got the better of him in the Tingle Creek at Sandown in December. He wasn’t quite as good under different tactics in the Clarence House last time but still retains his legendary status ahead of what could be his last trip to Cheltenham. The current forecast suggests he’ll get his favoured soft conditions under foot making him a lively contender in either the Champion Chase or the Ryanair.

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