The build-up to the Cheltenham Festival will have many trainers looking to the skies, some hoping for the heavens to open, while others pray that the precipitation stays away.
One man who looks likely to be doing the latter is Neil Mulholland.
The Wiltshire-based handler recorded his maiden Festival success as a trainer last year with The Druids Nephew, and looks to have assembled a strong squad as he bids to add to his tally.
He spoke exclusively to Ladbrokes News to run us through his main hopes of success at Prestbury Park and looks to have two lively chances to record back-to-back wins in the Ultima Business Solutions Handicap Chase on day one.
The Young Master – Ultima Business Solutions Handicap Chase – 14/1
“He had a good run at Ascot [in the Sodexo Silver Cup] and was dropped a pound by the handicapper.
“Things didn’t go according to plan that day, he got a bit behind at one stage and stayed galloping but didn’t get a clear run up the home straight.
“We gave him a flash around Cheltenham [in the Cleeve Hurdle], as we did with The Druids Nephew last year, to let him enjoy himself.
“You would like to think he’s off a competitive mark and if he gets a clear round of jumping he should be there or thereabouts.”
Carole’s Destrier – Ultima Business Solutions Handicap Chase – 20/1
“He’s come together a bit quicker than I thought. He had a wind op after winning the London National and I didn’t think I’d have him back in time.
“But he’s in excellent form and while I think The Young Master could run well in the race, I don’t think he’s badly handicapped either.
“He’s had the wind op and he should improve a bit for it, so I certainly wouldn’t be afraid of running two horses in the same race.
“He’ll have another gallop between now and Cheltenham and if that goes well then he’ll probably line up on the first day as well.”
“The four-miler would be his target. You would think there was more to come from him the further he goes, he’ll gallop all day.
“He’s by Presenting so should be another one to appreciate the better ground.
“He could have gone to Wetherby [for the Towton Novices’ Chase], but he would have had a real tough race, which a few of them did that day, but now we have a fresh horse going into Cheltenham.
“You’d be hopeful that he would be in the shake-up.”
“He’s still in both races and we’ll make up our mind closer to the time, as it depends on ground conditions. If the ground was soft he wouldn’t run anyway.
“I suppose if the ground was good on both days the Albert Bartlett might be the one that we’d go for.
“He’s by Shantou and they all improve for a step-up in trip and the way he works we’d be happy that he’d stay.
“He’d definitely get closer to Yanworth [if he ran in the Neptune] for the better ground and the fact that he’d have a run under his belt.
“I’m not making any excuses, I think he ran a cracker [in the Classic Novices’ Hurdle], but it was his first run after a break on ground that he absolutely hated.
“We would like to think that he would improve for having that run, and for the better ground.”
“His owners are quite keen [to run] and there’s no reason not to, he hasn’t done anything wrong.
“He jumps well and stays very well which would be a big bonus to him coming up the hill.
“You’d be looking at two-miles-four for him next year but if he can just hang in there in the early stages then his stronger side will come into play in the second half of the race.
“He’s finished first, second, first on his last three runs so he’s done very little wrong.
“He wants better ground, but if we waited for better ground we wouldn’t have run him this season, so we had to go somewhere.”
What’s Left – Kim Muir Challenge Cup – 50/1
“His form figures don’t read very well – first, pulled up, pulled up – but when he won the ground was much better.
“When he pulled up it was just too soft for him, so he’s much better than what his form figures read.
“He wants good ground, and wants a trip.”
Minella Present – Grand Annual Handicap Chase – 14/1
“We’ve been happy with him and wanted to give him a break as he’s another one by Presenting that wants the better ground.
“He’s done well and his last run was very good when he finished second at Cheltenham over two miles. From that day onwards we said we’d put him away for the Grand Annual.
“He had a racecourse gallop around Chepstow on Saturday and that went according to plan.”
All odds and markets correct as of the date of publishing.