To say Cheltenham Champion Trainer Willie Mullins was mob-handed with favourites on the opening day of the Festival would be an understatement, but it may come as a surprise to a few discerning punters whose chances of justifying the tag his son Patrick rates highest.
Mullins Snr sends out four heavily fancied market leaders across Cheltenham Tuesday’s most prestigious quartet of races.
Douvan starts the bidding for the County Carlow handler as a 7/4 shot to emulate stable mate Vautour in winning the Supreme Novices Hurdle.
However, even the horse Ruby Walsh described as having more gears than his predecessor can’t match a certain mare in Patrick Mullins’ eyes as he gave some intriguing first-hand insight into Tuesday’s star string.
Speaking at a Festival preview night in Ireland, Mullins Jnr rated 4/7 Mares’ Hurdle poke Annie Power ahead of lightning-hooved Arkle hope Un De Sceaux (1/2) and Douvan, with evens money Champion Hurdle favourite Faugheen in the unfamiliar pose of backmarker.
The presence of several class acts in Faugheen’s company, not least gallops companion and two-time winner Hurricane Fly (8/1), but more pertinently The New One’s threat at 3s and last year’s victor Jezki at 9/2, casts understandable aspersions on such a short price.
Placing Annie Power ahead of Un De Sceaux is notable though, especially given the price is fractionally more favourable to punters taking up the mare’s cause in the fifth race of the day.
Seeing her in the flesh – something National Hunt fans have yet to do this season – clearly has a big baring on the jockey’s choice, while the shorter trip is also hugely significant.
Having finished a gallant second when asked to step up to three miles for the first time in last year’s World Hurdle, shaving off four furlongs around Pretsbury Park for the Mare’s Hurdle has to boost her chances of a 12th win in 13 under rules.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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