Five time festival leading trainer, Willie Mullins was last crowned Cheltenham’s leading trainer in March 2016. A shift in power since then has seen Gordon Elliott catipulted up the ranks and it’s Elliott, who has taken top honours at the festival for the past two seasons.
Elliott has also provided stiff opposition to Willie Mullins domestically and the Co. Meath handler once again appears in a pole position to finally land the Irish Trainers Championship for the first time.
Gordon Elliott is currently 6/4 favourite to be Cheltenham’s leading trainer, with Nicky Henderson 15/8 second favourite.
Heading across the pond this season, Willie Mullins might be somewhat underestimated and currently lies third in the betting. It wasn’t long ago that Willie was challenging Paul Nicholls for the UK Trainers Championship whilst comfortably sitting top of the championship table in Ireland. 10/3 (BetXS) for Willie Mullins to win the most races at the Cheltenham festival looks huge!
Down numbers on last season, the Mullins herd is estimated to be closer to 40 horses, compared to last year’s figure of 60. One paticular journalist posed a ridiculous question to trainer Mullins at his media day last week, “this year would it be fair to say you would be happy with just one winner?” Don’t be silly, Mullins will 100% have more than one winner at the Cheltenham festival.
Benie Des Dieux is the Closutton banker of the week. Now 11/10 favourite for the mares hurdle on day one, Benie will turn up for race Quevega style, without having a run so far this season.
The Cheltenham novice hurdle division has witnessed Mullins domination for the best part of a decade. Despite the absence of any real superstar this year, WP Mullins still holds a decent spread of amonition in the form of Aramon, Klassical Dream, Allaho & Relegate (Champion Bumper winner 2018). Blue Sari looked abit special on debut in Gowran and is second favourite for the Champion bumper on Wednesday.
WP Mullins doesn’t have the anti post favourite for any of the four Championship races at this years festival, however, once again he has plenty of bullets to fire over the course of the week. Laurina will take her chance in the Champion Hurdle on day one and Faugheen is tipped up to roll back the years in the stayers hurdle. Reported to be rude health on the preview circuit, the champion hurdler of 2015 will take plenty of stopping if reproducing similar form to Punchestown (3m) last season.
Altior’s talent aside, both Footpad and Min have super chances in the Queen Mother & Ryanair Chase alike, wherever they line up. Moving onto the Gold Cup, the four pronged attack of Bellshill, Al Boum Photo, Invitation Only and Kemboy might be enough muscle to land Mullins the biggest prize of all, the Cheltenham Gold Cup for the very first time.
Uradel and Mr. Adjudicator are just two to keep on side during the week in handicaps and Ballyward is well fancied in the National Hunt Chase (Tuesday).
All told, Willie Mullins could once again get off to a flyer on day one! A double is achievable on Cheltenham Tuesday (Once named Ruby Tuesday). With a two goal lead heading into Wednesday, I wouldn’t be ruling out W.P Mullins to be Cheltenham’s leading trainer. 10/3 looks like the value.
Willie Mullins Leading Trainer Cheltenham Festival 2019 (10/3) BetXS – 2pt win
By Barry Doyle