Irish trainer Willie Mullins made history in 2015 by registering a record eight winners at the Cheltenham Festival, beating the previous best set by Nicky Henderson three years earlier.
With a stable looking much bigger and stronger this year, there is every chance that Mullins’ record could be topped again, with the prospect of double figures not out of the question.
Mullins started day one in 2015 very strongly with success with Douvan, Un De Sceaux and Faugheen. He could do something similar again on the opening day.
Min is at the time of writing well fancied at 5-4 in the Cheltenham 2016 odds in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, which is the first race of this year’s festival. In his two starts in Ireland this season, the novice has scored by a combined distance of over 23 lengths.
In the very next race on day one, Douvan returns to the same meeting he impressed at last year, this time over fences in the Arkle where he is 1-3 to score.
Mullins recently suffered a blow to his team when Faugheen was ruled out of the Champion Hurdle through injury. Despite the setback to the superstar, Mullins still has the top three in the betting for the 2m hurdle contest with Annie Power, Arctic Fire and Nichols Canyon all with good chances.
The Irish Champion Trainer was forced to shuffle his pack once he ruled Faugheen out of the Champion Hurdle. With Annie Power set to be supplemented to take on the opposite sex where she will be bidding to become only the fourth mare in history to win the Champion Hurdle, it means Vroum Vroum Mag is now 5/4 to win the Mares’ Hurdle.
Mullins’ best chance of a winner on day two of the Cheltenham Festival this year looks to be with Un De Sceaux. The 2015 Arkle winner stepped out of novice company this season where he scored in the Grade One Clarence House Chase. He did make an error at Leopardstown during their Christmas meeting, though, which resulted in him falling at the second last fence. Before that mistake he was over eight lengths clear of the field.
It is unclear at this stage which race Mullins will line up for Vautour at the Festival. The temptation may be to run the King George runner up in the 3m2f Cheltenham Gold Cup. That is a trip which is certainly not his best. The blue riband event is the highlight of the week so if Mullins does feel there is a chance he could see out that distance up the hill at Prestbury Park, he will most likely run him in the contest. The other option is the Ryanair Chase on day three. Vautour would likely be odds-on for the 2m4f chase.
Finally, Mullins has yet to win the Gold Cup in his training career so far. He went close in 2015 with Djakadam, who was beaten by just over a length by Coneygree. The seven-year-old is expected to return to the same race where he is likely to be in contention again.