Gold Cup type may lurk among Mullins’ Martin Pipe entries

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It’s well worth giving Willie Mullins’ entries for the Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival a second glance – each could be a star stayer of tomorrow.

Mullins has landed the so-called boy’s race twice in the last four renewals, both times with young horses that have gone on to prove themselves classy staying chasers.

In 2011 he struck with subsequent 2013 Gold Cup silver medallist and dual all-age Grade 1 winner Sir Des Champs, with that one going on to win the JLT Novices Chase at the intervening edition.

Three years later Don Poli landed a second Martin Pipe for the Mullins/Gigginstown House Stud axis, taking the trainer’s strike rate to two wins and a place from his last four runners in the contest.

That one is now considered sufficiently formidable to lead the betting for both the RSA Novices Chase (5/2) and the National Hunt Novices Chase (4/1) at this year’s shindig.

Admittedly working out which of Mullins’ 15 entrants for this years renewal could be the Irish champion handler’s next potential Gold Cup horse isn’t the most elementary of tasks.

His six-year-old Roi Des Francs is currently 9/2 favourite, while 10/1 stablemate McKinley “looks to have got a fantastic mark for a Grade 1 winner” according to the man himself.

However, of Mullins’ horde of entrants, 14/1 shot Arbre De Vie seems to have a profile most similar to Sir Des Champs and Don Poli.

Both were ex-French five-year-olds who raced no more than three times under rules for him before the Festival, as is the Susannah Ricci-owned gelding.

Arbre De Vie scored over 2m4f by 8l on his debut for Mullins, after which the Racing Post reported:

“He has a bit of size and is more or less bred to be a chaser, which one expects him to show next season.”

Already on a mark 2lbs higher than that which Don Poli scored off last year thanks to an 11l win on his sole subsequent start, he’s the joint-highest rated Mullins entrant over hurdles, along with 20/1 colleague Un Atout and Milsean, who is unlikely to make the Festival.

If the trainer does have a future Gold Cup horse in this year’s race it could be well be Arbre De Vie and, if past form is anything to go by, there will be an easy way to tell come raceday.

Both Sir Des Champs and Don Poli were his sole representatives when landing the odds.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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