Briar Hill and Ruby Walsh storm up the Cheltenham hill last yearPICTURE: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images
Mullins: we don't know how good Briar could be
TWO of Willie Mullins' eight Champion Bumper winners have returned to Cheltenham the following year to record another festival triumph and the master trainer has high hopes of Briar Hill following the paths of Florida Pearl and Champagne Fever.
Despite having Ruby Walsh in the saddle, Briar Hill was sent off a 25-1 shot in last year's Champion Bumper and hacked up by seven lengths.
He has made a fine start to his hurdling career - he is unbeaten in three outings - and won the Grade 1 Navan Novice Hurdle in December.
Andrea and Graham Wylie's six-year-old is entered in the Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle, but Mullins favours the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle, which Briar Hill is 4-1 for with Ladbrokes and William Hill.
Speaking to this week's Racing & Football Outlook for a pre-festival stable tour, Mullins said: "When a horse is unbeaten it's always difficult to gauge how good he is and Briar Hill falls into that category.
"He was a surprise 25-1 winner of the Champion Bumper last year, but I wasn't that surprised as he had always looked very useful."
Mullins, who saddled Florida Pearl (RSA Chase) and Champagne Fever (Supreme Novices' Hurdle) to subsequent Cheltenham wins after their Champion Bumper victories, added: "This term he is three from three over hurdles, including a Grade 1 and a Grade 2. He beat the smart Apache Jack well last time and I'm very happy with how he has been working going into the festival.
"We're looking at the staying novice hurdles with a slight preference for the Albert Bartlett."
Read more from Willie Mullins and his super squad for the Cheltenham Festival in this week's Racing & Football Outlook - out on Tuesday