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Willie Mullins with the inside track on his powerful Cheltenham Festival team

Willie Mullins chats with David Casey as he sits on Melon
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Al Boum Photo

I don't think we've seen the best of him yet. We're looking at the Gold Cup, although he's also in the Ryanair. Stamina shouldn't be an issue if he goes for the Gold Cup. 

Allaho

He did very well to win a Grade 3 over three miles at Clonmel last week. It was only his second run over hurdles and he won decisively, beating mostly more experienced rivals. I'm leaning towards the Albert Bartlett rather than the Ballymore. 

Allez Dance

She had plenty of experience in France, although her form there regressed after a good start. She had her first run for us at Punchestown today and won nicely. She clearly has ability and I'll discuss things with her owners to see if we'll enter her for the mares' novice.

Aramon and Rachael BoydClosutton.Photo: Patrick McCann/Racing Post 20.02.2019

Aramon

He's done very well this season and is a Grade 1 winner. He ran a cracking race when second to Klassical Dream in another Grade 1 last time. He's surprised me a bit by how well he's done and fully deserves a tilt at the Supreme.

Bacardys

We're reverting to hurdles and he'll take his chance in the Stayers' Hurdle. He ran in it last year and was staying on and looked like he'd have finished in the first three before falling at the last.

Ballyward

The National Hunt Chase is the only race he's entered for, and he is our only entry for that race. While you never know whether they'll stay four miles, he was a good winner of a three mile Grade 3 novice at Naas on only his second start over fences.

Bellshill

Cheltenham hasn't been lucky for him but he's now become the sort of horse we thought he would be. Everything has come together and I think he's improved since his Irish Gold Cup win. He jumps particularly well and has plenty of stamina.

Benie De Dieux (centre): bids to retain her title

Benie Des Dieux

Going back to try to win the Grade 1 mares' hurdle for the second year in a row has always been the plan. We didn't get a run into her because of the dry ground, and when we had to give her the flu jab last week it ruled out giving her a run. She's very well.

Bleu Berry

He won the Coral Cup last year and the plan was to send him over fences this season. That didn't happen because of the ground so we ran him in the Galmoy Hurdle last month. He's in the Stayers' Hurdle but could run in a handicap instead.

Blue Sari

He shows very little at home, certainly nothing like the speed he displayed when running away from his rival on his debut at Gowran last month. It's a pity the horse who ran second to him got brought down when travelling well at Naas as we'd have got a line on the form. Not many four-year-olds win the Champion Bumper but we think he's mature enough for the job.

Duc Des Genievres

You couldn't fault his performance at Gowran on Saturday, when he made all for an easy win. He'll be dropping back in trip in the Arkle but they usually go a good clip and that will suit him.

Easy Game

He's done well, winning four of his six starts over hurdles, three of them over two and a half miles. The Ballymore looks the obvious race.

Elfile

She won on her hurdling debut and first start for us at Punchestown last month. The runner-up has won since and the plan is to go for the mares' novice.

Faugheen

He's back in good form following his heavy fall at Leopardstown at Christmas, when he was closing on Apple's Jade when falling at the second last. It's hard to know what might have happened but Ruby [Walsh] said he hadn't asked any questions. He was very sore for a few days afterwards but we're happy with him now and he goes for the Stayers' Hurdle. 

Footpad and Qasim Raza.Closutton.Photo: Patrick McCann/Racing Post 20.02.2019

Footpad

He's had an interrupted season due to twice suffering an overreach. We've left the hind shoes off him since he last ran at Christmas and he schooled very well after racing at Navan on Sunday. He was more like the Footpad we saw last season, when he was unbeaten. We'll delay a decision about which race – the Champion Chase or Ryanair – he'll run in. He should have no problem with the longer trip if we decide on the Ryanair.

French Made

She won well on her hurdling debut at Clonmel last month and will take her chance in either the mares' novice or Triumph. 

Invitation Only

He could go for the Gold Cup, although he's also in the Ryanair. Whichever race he goes for he'll need to step up on his Thyestes Chase-winning form. 

Kemboy

He was very good when he won the Savills Chase at Christmas and we made the decision after Leopardstown to keep him fresh and go straight for the Gold Cup. He's a much improved horse this season and I've no worries about the trip – I think the further he goes the better he'll be. He's shown he's adaptable in terms of ground. 

Klassical Dream

He's a really nice progressive type and we're going to have a headache trying to decide whether to run in the Supreme or Ballymore. Both his wins have been over two miles but we think he'll definitely stay further. He's a very good jumper and has lots of experience, having run five times over hurdles in France.

Laurina

We rate her very highly and were very pleased with her win at Punchestown today. She had a good blow after, which was understandable as we had to give her an easy week after getting the flu jab. The tight inside track at Punchestown wasn't ideal and Ruby said she'll be a lot happier on a more galloping track. She jumped a bit big at times but when she was asked to go about her business she was a lot sharper. She's a lot more mature and relaxed than last season, when you'd need a bodyguard to go with you into her box. The Champion Hurdle is the plan. 

Limini

She hasn't fired this season but seems in good form and has performed well at the Festival in the past, winning the mares' novice in 2016 and finishing third in the Grade 1 mares' race two years ago. 

Melon

He's been disappointing this season, exactly why is difficult to say. We might try something new, maybe tactics or using headgear. His performance in the Champion Hurdle last year, when he ran Buveur D'Air close, was his best performance. There has been no evidence of that sort of form this season but we're very happy with him and live in hope.

Min

It will be a late decision between taking on Altior in the Champion Chase or running in the Ryanair. Altior beat him by seven lengths in the Champion Chase last year but you should never be afraid of one horse. He's won two Grade 1s this season and all is good.

My Sister Sarah

She's a smart sort and is two from three over hurdles. The plan is to run her in the mares' novice.

Penhill

It was always the plan to head back to the Stayers' Hurdle without a run. You have to check him out on a daily basis to see if everything's okay but he's coming along nicely and we're happy with him so far, but he has a few more serious bits of work to do. Hopefully all will go well and he'll be ready to defend his crown.

Pravalaguna

For a mare who was lucky to survive a horrible fall at Auteuil in the summer of 2017, I've been delighted to see her come back and win two chases so decisively this season. We'll decide between the JLT and Arkle.

Relegate

She came from a long way behind to win the bumper at the festival last year. She was disappointing and got going only late on when she ran in a Grade 1 novice hurdle at Leopardstown last time, when the ground might have been too quick for her. The Albert Bartlett is the plan.

Sancta Simona

She's two from three over hurdles, with her only defeat coming in a Grade 1 when second to Aramon at Leopardstown. She's being aimed at the mares' novice.

Sharjah

He's had a very good season, winning the Galway Hurdle, Morgiana and Ryanair Hurdle. He's improved out of all recognition and fully deserves a tilt at the Champion Hurdle.

Tiger Tap Tap

He ran Sir Erec close on his hurdling debut over Christmas before disappointing behind the same horse in a Grade 1 back at Leopardstown this month. I might have been too easy on him between those races but he's a smart sort and will take his chance in the Triumph.

Un De Sceaux (leading): in good form at home

Un De Sceaux

He's been a wonderful servant for his owners and has twice won at the festival. He hasn't had his ground this season – at this stage of his career he appreciates plenty of ease – but seems to be coming right. The work he did on Tuesday was the best he's done all season. The Ryanair, which he won two years ago, is the plan.

Voix Du Reve

He's won two chases and was none the worse for his fall at Leopardstown last time. The advice from our jockeys is to step him up in trip so he's more likely to go for the JLT than the Arkle.

 


Don't miss the Racing Post Cheltenham Festival Guide 2019 – 208 pages featuring Paul Kealy's race-by-race guide, Racing Post Ratings, top tipsters, bookmakers Q&A, trainer analysis and much more. Order now at racingpost.com/shop or call 01933 304858


 

He's a really nice progressive type and we're going to have a headache trying to decide whether to run him in the Supreme or the Ballymore
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