Willie Mullins Stable Tour: Cheltenham Festival 2021

Willie Mullins Horse Trainer

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Willie Mullins Stable Tour: Cheltenham Festival 2021

There is arguably no better combo than Willie Mullins and the Cheltenham Festival, and after seven winners at last year’s meeting, including a Friday four-timer, he’s back with even more firepower this time around.

A seven-time leading trainer at Cheltenham, he is the most successful trainer in Festival history and has already clocked up 72 winners as we head into this year’s big meeting.

In 2020, he won the Champion Bumper, Ryanair Chase, Triumph Hurdle, Albert Bartlett and the Gold Cup, to name just a few, but will he add to his incredible record this March?

We’ve taken a look at some of his stable stars and picked out which races they could be heading towards this year.

Al Boum Photo

9-y-o bay gelding

Form: 11/211-1

Verdict: He’s aiming to become the first horse since Best Mate to win three Gold Cup’s on the spin, and it’s reportedly all systems go for the big race after winning his usual prep race at Tramore on New Year’s Day. That came by an impressive 19 lengths over the talented Acapaella Bourgeois, which was 13 lengths more than when beating the same opponent in the race last year. At nine-years-old, he’s still in the peak of his career, and you’d be brave to bet against him landing that Gold Cup hat trick.

Allaho

7-y-o bay gelding

Form: 213-641

Verdict: He didn’t quite having the staying power when finishing a close 3rd in the RSA Chase last year, so it’s no surprise to see the Ryanair being his main target for Cheltenham this time. He was very impressive in a Grade Two over 2m4f at Thurles most recently, and with solid Cheltenham form in the bank, he could be a real danger over that slightly shorter trip this year.

Appreciate It

7-y-o bay gelding

Form: 112-111

Verdict: Unbeaten in three runs since finishing 2nd in the Champion Bumper last season, it was expected that he’d go for staying trips this season, but its been so far so good over the minimum distance. The most recent of those was in the G1 Chanelle Pharma Novice Hurdle at the Dublin Racing Festival (DRF), where although he wasn’t the pick of the Mullins winners that weekend, he was still good enough to beat Ballyadam by over three lengths. The Supreme now seems more likely come Cheltenham!

Asterion Forlonge

7-y-o grey gelding

Form: 14-1FF4

Verdict: Went off as the 9/4f for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle last year, but could only finish fourth and has done little to prove his quality over fences this year. Other than a win on his chase debut at Punchestown in November, he has fallen twice and was a distant fourth most recently behind Monkfish in the Grade One Flogas Novice Chase. He has entries in both of the Grade 1 Novice Chases and the National Hunt Chase, but he’d need to show some serious improvement to win at Cheltenham this March.

Benie Des Dieux

10-y-o bay mare

Form: 1F/1112-

Verdict: Lost out in a game of tactics with Honeysuckle in the Mares Hurdle last season, in what was only her first career defeat when completing for Willie Mullins. She has yet to be seen so far this season, and although Mullins has penciled in the Mares Chase, she is also entered in the Mares Hurdle and the Stayers, of which she would be a serious player.

Chacun Pour Soi

9-y-o bay gelding

121-111

Verdict: Extremely fragile but extremely talented, Chacun Pour Soi has proved to be all class this season and heads to Cheltenham as the market leader for the Champion Chase. He was super impressive in the G1 Dublin Chase at the DRF, leaving the likes of Fakir D’Oudairies and Notebook in his wake. Injuries have so far kept him away from Cheltenham, but if he makes it this March, then he’s the one to beat.


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Energumene

7-y-o bay gelding

Form: 311-111

Verdict: If Shishkin didn’t think he had anything to worry about in this year’s Arkle then he does now, after Energumene made it five races unbeaten, including three over fences, with a romping victory in the Irish Arkle last time. A big frame of a horse, he looks a natural chaser, and any cut in the ground will only add to his chances come Cheltenham.

Faugheen

13-y-o bay gelding

Form: 3P-1113

Verdict: A Cheltenham Festival legend in every sense of the word, Faugheen had a season to remember last year with three victories in Ireland before a narrow defeat behind Samcro in the Marsh Chase. Unfortunately, a set back has ruled him out of making the trip across the Irish Sea this year, with Punchestown a more likely destination in the spring.

French Aseel

4-y-o chestnut gelding

Form: 1

Verdict: Was interestingly bought by Mrs Donnelly (same owner as Al Boum Photo) and sent to Mullins after winning a maiden hurdle at Leopardstown over Christmas. Is yet to be seen since then, but holds entries in the Triumph Hurdle and the Supreme, and is reportedly pleasing the team in his work at home.

Gaillard Du Mesnil

5-y-o grey gelding

Form: 222-211

Verdict: A French import that has got better with every run since joining Willie Mullins and really caught the eye when pulling away to win over 2m6f at the DRF most recently. That victory has put him well in the picture for the Ballymore and as an out and out stayer, he could take all the beating with some cut in the ground.

Gauloise

5-y-o chesnut mare

Form: 1-113

Verdict: Showed some real quality in her first two starts for Wille Mullins, but was a bit disappointing in a Mares Novice Hurdle at Fairyhouse on her latest start and that could scupper her Cheltenham chances. The ground was close to heavy that day, which wouldn’t have been ideal, so maybe the spring ground can see her return to her best.

Kemboy

9-y-o bay gelding

Form: 427-221

Verdict: Is well on track for another crack at the Gold Cup this March, after finishing second in the Savills Chase and then stepping up to win the Irish Gold Cup at the DRF. Decent ground is usually the key to him, so he wouldn’t want it any worse than soft if he wanted to have a real go at winning Cheltenham’s blue ribbon event.


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Kilcruit

6-y-o bay gelding

Form: 2-11

Verdict: Switched across the Mullins family from Tony to Willie at the end of last year, and has proved to be a class act since then including the most impressive victory of the DRF, when winning the G2 Bumper by 12 lengths. That quickly installed him as the new favourite for the Champion Bumper, and he’ll take all the beating if he can reproduce that Leopardstown performance.

Melon

9-y-o chestnut gelding

Form: 142-335

Verdict: A great form marker when it comes to the Cheltenham Festival, Melon has been knocking on the door for some time with placed efforts in the Supreme, Champion Hurdle and the Marsh. However, he’s yet to be seen to his best this season and finished last of the five in the Irish Gold Cup at Punchestown. He’s likely to be stepped back in trip for the Ryanair, and with course form counting for a lot around Cheltenham, he’d be a definite each-way candidate.

Min

10-y-o bay gelding

Form: 2121-1P

Verdict: Much like Melon, Min had developed a reputation for becoming the bridesmaid at Cheltenham, but set that record straight with an excellent jumping performance to win the Ryanair last season. All was going well this term with victory in the John Durkan, but he was pulled up at the DRF to put a dent in his preparation. Mullins has confirmed that he has been fine since then, and will attempt to retain his Ryanair crown.

Monkfish

7-y-o bay gelding

Form: 111-111

Verdict: Unbeaten in his last six starts, including three times over fences, he won the Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham last season and has shown further improvement this term. He’s comfortably beaten Latest Exhibition in both of his last two starts, and is seemingly the one to beat in the Festival Novices’ Chase.

Sharjah

8-y-o bay gelding

Form: 4162-13

Verdict: Now a four-time Grade One winner over hurdles, he has already picked up his favoured Matheson Hurdle for the third time this Christmas, and appeals as a real Champion Hurdle contender. He was comfortably seen off by Honeysuckle in the Irish Champion Hurdle last time, but he’s ran some great races around Cheltenham and is set to be in the Champion Hurdle picture once again.

Saint Roi

6-y-o brown gelding

Form: 11-1244

Verdict: After winning the County Hurdle last year, he was many punters’ idea of the Champion Hurdle winner this time. However, his form so far this season hasn’t really proven him to be an outstanding candidate, and although he’s been in all the big races over two miles, he was still 21 lengths behind Honeysuckle in the Irish Champion Hurdle last time. He’ll likely go for his main target, but it’s hard to see him grabbing anything better than a place.

Saldier

7-y-o bay gelding

Form: 31F-166

Verdict: An inconsistent sort, this 7yo was 5th in the 2018 Triumph Hurdle and then came into contention for last season's Champion Hurdle after winning the Morgiana at Punchestown. However, injury meant he missed his Festival target, and he's failed to deliver in two starts this season. He was sixth of seven in the Matheson and then the last one home in the Irish Champion Hurdle. He's plenty to prove!

Sir Gerhard

6-y-o bay gelding

Form: 11

Verdict: A winning pointer, he has now extended that record under rules with two victories from two runs so far. The latest of those came when winning a Listed bumper at Navan in December, and he’s a leading player for the Champion Bumper, where his trainer has won two of the last four renewals.


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