Mullins assembling powerful army to go to war with on the Flat
If you thought Willie Mullins was going to spend the summer months relaxing and revelling in his late comeback to seal a tenth title, think again.
The jumps commander-in-chief is assembling his most powerful Flat army ever, with County Hurdle winner Arctic Fire set to join the squad and possibly join Max Dynamite in the Ascot Gold Cup.
Mullins became a Classic-winning trainer for the first time last September when Wicklow Brave bravely batted away the challenge of Order Of St George in the Irish St Leger at the Curragh and last Friday's Punchestown Champion Hurdle winner is on course for another summer in the spotlight.
Wicklow Brave will spearhead a massive assault on the staying handicaps this summer for Mullins, as Arctic Fire, Renneti, Diakali, Thomas Hobson, Max Dynamite and many others will also be kept on the go.
Mullins said: "We have a lovely crop for the Flat this summer. It could be the biggest summer team I've had and I'd like to think we'll have quite a few runners at Royal Ascot. I've entered both Max Dynamite and Arctic Fire in the Gold Cup."
He added: "I'm keen to give Thomas Hobson a Flat campaign as he looks the type that could do well.
"We will also have Max Dynamite back as well as Renneti. Both of those are very good stayers. Diakali is another who will run through the summer, while I've also decided to see how Arctic Fire fares on the Flat.
"He's always shown a lot of speed so it should suit him and he's had a light campaign over the jumps season."
An elite group
Wicklow Brave last Friday joined an elite group to have won a Group 1 on the Flat and a Grade 1 over hurdles and Mullins is looking forward to another fruitful summer with the versatile son of Beat Hollow.
Mullins said: "I think a mile and six furlongs is Wicklow Brave's best trip on the Flat. He won the Irish St Leger over that distance.
"I don't think he quite saw out the trip in the Queen Alexandra takes at Royal Ascot a few years ago but we'd like to find something for him at Ascot. He's a very versatile horse and a very talented one too."
Another summer mission for Mullins is a trip to Percy Warner Park in Nashville, Tennessee on May 13 to tackle the Calvin Houghland Iroquois Hurdle with Nichols Canyon, who is chasing a $500,000 bonus after winning the Stayers' Hurdle at Cheltenham.
Nichols Canyon finished third behind Rawnaq and stablemate Shaneshill in the 3m Grade 1 last year, but Mullins is keen to have another crack at the lucrative pot with the seven-year-old, who was just touched off by Unowhatimeanharry in the Champion Stayers Hurdle at Punchestown last Thursday.
Mullins said: "The intention is for Nichols Canyon to go for the Iroquois. He seems fine after his run at Punchestown on Thursday and plans are fairly advanced for taking him out to America.
"The prize-money is good but we're in line for the bonus, so it would make the trip even better if we could win that."