Willie Mullins Stable Tour: Cheltenham Festival 2022

Willie Mullins Horse Trainer

Willie Mullins Stable Tour: Cheltenham Festival 2022

There is arguably no better combo than Willie Mullins and the Cheltenham Festival, and after a superb time of things last term, he has another monster team to send to Prestbury Park in 2022 and we have gone through some of them.

A eight 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.

Here is the big guns he will potentially be sending over come March.

Al Boum Photo

10yo bay gelding

Form: 11/132-1

Target: Cheltenham Gold Cup

Became the first horse since the great Best Mate to win back-to-back Gold Cups, lifting the trophy in 2019 and 2020. Sent off favourite to complete the hat-trick last season, but could only manage third behind Minella Indo and A Plus Tard in perhaps a stronger renewal than either of his victories. Warmed up for Cheltenham with his fourth consecutive win in Tramore’s Listed New Year’s Day Chase, though it’s hard to gauge exactly what he achieved in beating a trio of inferior stablemate. Nevertheless, it confirmed that he still merits his place at the top table and is undeniably very well suited to the test the Gold Cup provides. May be vulnerable for win purposes, but looks a solid podium contender once again.

Allaho

8yo bay gelding

Form: 4112-11

Target: Ryanair Chase

Placed as a novice over both hurdles and fences at the Festival, both times over three miles, but the drop to an intermediate trip has looked to key to unlocking Allaho’s potential. After warming up with a defeat of his yard’s good mare Elimay at Thurles, Allaho produced one of the most breathtaking Cheltenham recent times in winning last year’s Ryanair; a relentless front-running performance, tanking along at such a pace that left a field of genuine Grade 1 horses strung out across Prestbury Park. Confirmed he was the leading light in this division with another convincing victory in a competitive-looking John Durkan Chase first time out this season, before returning to Thurles for another comfortable prep this January. His aggressive style over this trip can often put rivals on the back foot early, and it’s very hard to see him failing in his bed for a second Ryanair.

Appreciate It

8yo bay gelding

Form: 12/1111-

Target: Champion Hurdle

Runner-up in the Champion Bumper in 2020, Appreciate It proved a novice hurdler right out of the top-drawer last season, winning all four starts- three of them Grade 1s. The most impressive of these came in the Supreme at Cheltenham, travelling strongly and powering away when asked to do so to record an exceptional 24-length victory. A planned chasing campaign was stalled by an injury, so Team Mullins opted to keep Appreciate It over hurdles, but he also missed his intended reappearance in the Irish Champion Hurdle and it would take a remarkable performance to turn Honeysuckle over on his return, even allowing for one as talented as he is.

Asterion Forlonge

8yo grey gelding

Form: 331-UF4

Target: Ryanair/Gold Cup

Highly-talented chaser but one prone to calamitous errors, having either fallen or unseated on four of his nine starts over fences. Looked certain to play big parts in a brace of Grade 1s, the John Durkan and the King George, before late jumping lapses ended his race. Didn’t fire in the Irish Gold Cup, though and he’s yet to really bring his best form to Cheltenham.

Blue Lord

7yo bay gelding

Form: 3F3-111

Target: Arkle

Smart novice hurdler last season, likely to have finished second behind Appreciate It in the Supreme if not for falling at the last. Always likely to be a better chaser on looks, though, and it’s proven so already, yet to be troubled in winning at both Fairyhouse and Naas on his first two starts this season. Gained his first Grade 1 when completing the hat-trick in the Irish Arkle last time, though he had to wait for the Stewards’ to clear him after cutting across the fast finishing runner-up Riviere D’Etel on the run-in. Very little to dislike about him and he’s justifiably vying for favouritism in the Arkle.

Chacun Pour Soi

10yo bay gelding

Form: 1131-51

Target: Champion Chase

Ended last season as the highest-rated horse in training thanks to three imperious Grade 1 wins in Ireland, but rather seemed below his best when a beaten 8-13 favourite in the Champion Chase last year, travelling like the best horse in the race before faltering up the hill. Shaped as if amiss in the Tingle Creek on return but was back to his imperious best winning another Dublin Chase last month.This year’s Champion Chase looks stronger and Cheltenham didn’t particularly seem to play to his strengths last year, but it’s impossible to dismiss clearly so naturally gifted as Chacun Pour Soi. If he brings his A-game, he’s a huge threat.

Concertista

8yo chestnut mare

Form: 1123-11

Target: Mares Chase

Produced a remarkable performance when second in the Dawn Run on her hurdling debut in 2019 and went one better in that race the following year, having retained her novice status for a second season. Proved herself amongst the best mares in the game when just nabbed in the Mares’ Hurdle last year, and has looked every bit as good as a chaser in winning a pair of Grade 2s at Limerick and Cork. She’s the right favourite for the Mares Chase, and should take all the beating.

Dysart Dynamo

6yo bay gelding

Form: 11-11

Target: Supreme/Ballymore

Only made his racecourse debut less than a year ago but has looked a top-class prospect in winning all four starts; two bumpers last season and two novice hurdles this time. The most recent of those came when galloping his opposition into submission in the Moscow Flyer at Punchestown in January, Clearly pacy enough to compete at a high-level over two miles, so it will be interesting to seethe Mullins camp decide to up him in trip for the weaker-looking Ballymore and opt for

Echoes In Rain

6yo bay mare

Form: 111-343

Target: County Hurdle

Began the season as a Champion Hurdle dark horse after winning her final three starts in novice hurdles last season, culminating in a Punchestown Grade 1. Yet to hit those heights in open company this season and has already been scratched from the Champion Hurdle, so a first foray into handicap company in the County looks to be the Cheltenham target.

Energumene

8yo brown gelding

Form: 1111-12

Target: Champion Chase

Developed into an exceptional chaser last season, winning all four starts in his novice campaign in bloodless fashion, Grade 1 victories at Leopardstown and Punchestown going some way to making up for the minor injury that kept him out of Cheltenham. Returned this season winning the Hilly Way at Cork, a performance so dominant the race was sewn by halfway, before meeting defeat for the first-time at the hands of another unbeaten chaser in Shishkin in an absolutely classic renewal of the Clarence House Chase at Ascot, just worn down in the dying strides by his strong-finishing rival. The rematch is billed as the race of the Festival, and Energumene fans will have Cheltenham’s speed-favouring New Course, which may help this front-runner turn the tables on the biggest stage of them all.

Facile Vega

5yo bay gelding

Form: 11

Target: Champion Bumper

Regally bred, being by Walk In The Park out of the six-time Cheltenham Festival heroine Quevega. Already looks to have the ability to go alongside his pedigree, winning on debut at Leopardstown over Christmas before bolting up in a traditionally strong Grade 2 at the Dublin Racing Festival. The Mullins yard are normally mob-handed in the Champion Bumper, but Facile Vega holds the best form and quite rightly seems their number one.

Galopin Des Champs

6yo bay gelding

Form: P611-11

Target: Turners/Brown Advisory

The Mullins yard have often used the Martin Pipe as a race to launch their future starts at Cheltenham, and that was no different last season, with Galopin Des Champs bolting up in the Festival’s closer, before winning over three-miles in Grade 1 company at the Punchestown Festival. Made a breathtaking chasing debut over Christmas and confirmed the impression made when proving far too good for previous Grade 1 winner Master McShee at the Dublin Racing Festival. Has options over both two-and-a-half miles and three miles, but is likely to be a very short price and take a lot of beating whichever option is chosen.

Haut En Couleurs

5yo bay gelding

Form: 133-1F

Target: Arkle

Almost caused a 20-1 shock on his debut for Willie Mullins when making the frame in the Triumph last season and filled the same third place in Punchestown’s juvenile Grade 1 a month later. Bolted up on chasing debut at Leopardstown over Christmas but took a novicey fall there in the Irish Arkle last time. Still lacks experience but he’s a fine raw prospect going forward.

Kilcruit

7yo bay gelding

Form: 121-231

Target: Supreme

Top-class bumper performer last season, winning Graded events at the Dublin Racing Festival and the Punchestown Festival, as well as arguably shaping like the best horse when denied by Sir Gerhard in the Champion Bumper. His transition to hurdling has been rockier, beaten on his first two starts before finally getting off the mark at Punchestown in late January. Likely to improve significantly on what he has achieved over hurdles so far, but whether he finds enough to be competitive in the Supreme is another matter

Klassical Dream

8yo bay gelding

Form: 1/35/1-14

Target: Stayers’ Hurdle

The standout novice hurdler of 2018/19, winning 3 Grade 1s, including the Supreme at the Cheltenham Festival. Injuries derailed his immediate progress, but after close to 500 days off the track, he returned as a reinvented staying hurdler, winning Grade 1s at Punchestown at the end of last season, and at Leopardstown this Christmas. Rightly headed the ante-post betting for Stayers’ until a shock defeat at odds of 1-3 at Gowran in January, and for all he’s clearly a horse with the ability to run a big race, he will now arrive at the Festival with something to prove.

Minella Cocooner

6yo bay gelding

Form: 1211

Target: Ballymore/Albert Bartlett

Comes from a strong staying family, and having won his only bumper start at Kilbeggan in the summer, and has quickly developed into a smart hurdler, winning the Grade 1 Nathaniel Lacy at the Dublin Racing Festival over 2m6f on his most recent outing, in no small part down to a fluent round of jumping. The Nathaniel Lacy is often a stepping stone towards the Albert Bartlett over three miles, but reportedly a step back down to an intermediate trip is the plan for this one. He’d have a chance in either event.

Saint Sam

5yo bay gelding

Form: 4225-13

Target: Arkle

Placed in Graded company on a couple occasions in juvenile hurdles last season and ran a fine race under a big weight when runner-up in the Fred Winter at the Festival. Already looks a better chaser, impressing in a Fairyhouse novice on chase debut before shaping well when third in the Irish Arkle. Has work to do to turn the tables with Blue Lord and Riviere D’Etel on that form, but he’s going the right way and we’ve likely not seen the best of him yet.

Sir Gerhard

7yo bay gelding

Form: 1113-1

Target: Supreme/Ballymore

Cost Cheveley Park Stud £400,000 after winning his point and certainly lived up to his expensive price tag last season, winning 3 bumpers, most notably the Grade 1 Champion Bumper here at the Cheltenham Festival, where he edged out stablemate Kilcruit. Effortless in winning a maiden hurdle on his first start in this sphere and dominated a strong field from the front when taking the Grade 1 Chanelle Pharma on only his second start over hurdles, despite still making a couple of novicey errors. May find his jumping put under less pressure in the Ballymore,

Stormy Ireland

8yo bay mare

Form: 9211-61

Target: Mares’ Hurdle

Somewhat of a veteran of the mares’ hurdling scene, having made her debut in this race all the way back in 2018. Achieved her best Festival placing when second to Benie Des Dieux in 2019 but is still at least as good nowadays, beating the geldings to win the Grade 2 Relkeel Hurdle here at Cheltenham on New Years’ Day. This year’ Mares’ Hurdle perhaps lacks the standout performer often seen in recent renewals and she holds a solid chance against the younger mares.

Vauban

4yo chestnut gelding

Form: 21

Target: Triumph Hurdle

Arrived in Ireland with a significant reputation, having won a Listed event in France on his final start on the flat, so it came as a surprise when he was narrowly turned over at odds of 4-9 by Pied Piper on his hurdling debut. That form was subsequently made to look very strong, though, and Vauban proved himself to be a potentially top-class performer when taking the scalp of the previously unbeaten Fil Dor in the Grade 1 Spring Juvenile at the Dublin Racing Festival last time out. Now heads for a fascinating rematch with Pied Piper in the Triumph.

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