Mullins out to strengthen Champion connection
Last year's Grand National-winning jockey David Mullins is not without hope of being this year's Champion Hurdle-winning rider, with his prospective mount Brain Power on the move in the market on Sunday.
Betfred, Paddy Power, Betfair Sportsbook and BetBright all cut the Nicky Henderson-trained up-and-comer to 16-1 (from 20), with his trainer eyeing a clash with Yanworth in the Betfred Contenders Hurdle at Sandown early next month.
Such a meeting would go a long way to establishing Britain's prime Stan James Champion Hurdle hope, while the front two in the betting, Irish stars Faugheen and Annie Power, have yet to be seen this season.
Mullins, whose link-up with Brain Power's owner Michael Buckley strengthens on Monday when he has his first ride at Doncaster on Hammersly Lake, said: "The manner in which Brain Power won at Ascot last time would entitle him to have a go in a Champion Hurdle trial at least.
“He’s an improving horse who could well end up in the Champion Hurdle; he felt like a good horse to me at Ascot.”
By winning what was formerly the Ladbroke Hurdle by five lengths, Brain Power felt like a good horse to the handicapper as well, and was raised 13lb for the victory under Mullins to a rating of 162.
Henderson told his Stan James blog: "Many people have suggested on Twitter that L'Ami Serge is my Champion Hurdle horse but I’d like to ask you back – would you rather have L’Ami Serge or Brain Power?
"Brain Power is now well into the Champion Hurdle reckoning off his rating and we’ll take him to Sandown on February 4 for the Contenders Hurdle, where he is likely to bump into Yanworth; now that would be some race, wouldn’t it?"
Mullins certainly knows what a Grade 1 hurdler feels like and is the only jockey to have inflicted defeat upon Faugheen, when driving Nichols Canyon home in front of that rival in the 2015 Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown.
Explaining his ride on the Henderson-trained Hammersly Lake at Doncaster on Monday, he said: “There was no racing in Ireland and Michael Buckley and Nicky Henderson were good enough to offer me the opportunity.
“I'm very grateful for the ride. It’s my first time to ride at Doncaster and I'm very much looking forward to it.”