Mullins’ 2014 parallels good news for Cheltenham’s home team

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It was another fine weekend in Ireland for crack handler Willie Mullins, with Supreme Novices’ Hurdle favourite Douvan seeing his odds cut for the Cheltenham Festival’s first race, from 4/1 into 5/2, after a three-and-a-half-length stroll at Punchestown.

Meanwhile, in Saturday’s last clash at the Kildare track, Au Quart De Tour strengthened his boss’ strong hand for the Champion Bumper with a five-length win on debut under rules.

Mullins took the laurels in five of the 27 Cheltenham 2014 events, with Vautour and Faugheen sweeping the Supreme and Neptune Novices’ Hurdles, and Quevega the Mares’ Hurdle, but short-priced favourites Briar Hill and Annie Power failed to land the Albert Bartlett or the World Hurdle.

The latter is 1/1 to pick up where Quevega left off for the girls, while combinations from high-class novice group Douvan, Alvisio Ville, Shaneshill and Tell Us More will confidently tackle the aforementioned pair of races over the smaller obstacles.

However, when it comes to the two hurdles events that got away from Mullins last March, there doesn’t seem to be too much in reserve.

World Hurdle champion More Of That, for British-based Corkman Jonjo O’Neill, is out on his own at 7/2 to retain the stayers’ title, with Sandra Hughes’ Lieutenant Colonel next best at a top-price 10/1.

Annie Power is Mullins’ most prominent contender in the betting, also at 10/1, despite there being little chance she’ll run on Thursday.

This three-miler looks bound for the home team, and the 58-year-old is under pressure from both sides of the Irish Sea in the Albert Bartlett, a race (like the World Hurdle) he is yet to win.

Shaneshill’s plans have clearly been reassessed after the 2014 Champion Bumper runner-up was beaten last month by Gordon Elliott’s No More Heroes, who heads the market at a top-price 6/1 from Mullins’ unproven Black Hercules at 10/1, alongside Nigel Twiston-Davies’ Blaklion.

The value looks to have come and gone for Douvan, Annie Power and Champion Hurdle favourite Faugheen at 5/2, 1/1 and 5/4 in their respective events, but this treble, which would pay out at almost 15/1, could be as good as it gets for Mullins’ followers.

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

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