Mullins in for big day at Thurles with Champagne Fever set for glory
It can probably be said for most seasons, but Willie Mullins really does hold a strong hand as we head towards National Hunt racing’s showcase events.
With antepost favourites in nine of the 27 Cheltenham Festival races, Prestbury Park couldn’t come soon enough for the County Carlow handler.
But first there is the matter of Thurles, with the Ladbrokes Ireland Kinloch Brae Chase set to take centre stage.
And it is that race that provides the meat in the sandwich to what could be a very welcome treble for the Irish Champion Trainer.
Back these three to do the business and you could land a treble at just over 4/1.
He was made to work on his hurdle debut, but the Gigginstown-owned gelding knuckled down well to battle off all-comers over a trip well short of ideal, with the race throwing up a subsequent winner in behind.
Now up to 2m6f for the first time, he should be winning this if he is to justify being the 14/1 fourth-favourite for the Albert Bartlett at the Festival.
Of his five opponents, Oscar Swan and Montys Meadow look likely to be well outclassed (the selection beat the latter 26l in a bumper last season), while Killultagh Sarah will need a massive step up to challenge.
The main danger looks likely to be stablemate Measureofmydreams who looked impressive on hurdle debut.
Nevertheless he was well beaten in a 3m Grade 3 last time out, so has plenty of improvement to find with the market leader.
Last year’s Arkle runner-up drops down to a more suitable trip, having found the 3m in the King George too much for him and looks underestimated in the market here.
Yes, Don Cossack is three from three this winter, but holes can be picked in that form.
First time out he beat 132-rated Loosen My Load just 5½l with the good-but-not-great Alderwood and Roi Du Mee in behind.
Next he won a three-runner affair with Wonderful Charm his only real opponent since exposed as some way short of being top-class.
Even his John Durkan form can be taken with a pinch of salt. Both Lord Windermere and Boston Bob were running at trips short of ideal, no matter how nicely Gordon Elliot’s horse won.
The weights have Don Cossack 2lbs ahead and based purely on this season, is probably fair.
However to my eye, we haven’t seen the best of Champagne Fever, and Thurles could be the place he starts to fulfil his potential over fences.
Yet another smart French recruit for Rich and Susannah Ricci, their mare looks to continue an unbeaten record over the large obstacles.
She has already handed out comprehensive beatings to Down Ace and Davina’s Tip, both of whom re-oppose here, and was a victor when Elsie took a tumble at Cork in December.
Grade 3 winner Jennie’s Jewel could be a threat but her fall at Punchestown two weeks ago will have needed to have left no confidence issues.
And with sire Voix Du Nord’s progeny including the likes of Taquin Du Seuil, Vaniteux and Vibrato Valtat, there is plenty of reason to believe this six-year-old can round our treble off in style, with a step up in trip looking a perfect next step.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
Fancy this Mullins trio to deliver? Back them all to get their head in front in a treble to rake in the cash!