Cheltenham Festival 2019: Five Willie Mullins Horses That Can Challenge For Glory
Down the years Willie Mullins has had a red-hot team heading to the Cheltenham Festival, and often the master of Closutton has amassed an array of victories with some of the finest equine talents to grace Prestbury Park.
With under three weeks to go until the action kicks off on March 12, Mullins has opened his stables to the media to discuss this year's brigade and we pick out FIVE horses that are sure to run massive races and will be major challengers over the four days.
Benie Des Dieux - Mares' Hurdle
Upsetting Apple's Jade in last year's Mares' Hurdle, Benie Des Dieux is aiming to follow in the footsteps of the mighty Quevega by winning back-to-back Mares' Hurdle and it's hard to see her not emulating that legendary Mullins-trained mare.
With the aforementioned Apple's Jade and stablemate Laurina veering down the Champion Hurdle route then it could prove to be a penalty kick for Benie Des Dieux, who hasn't been seen on the track since winning at the Punchestown Festival. Just like Quevega did, Benie Des Dieux could turn up without a prep run and still cruise to victory.
Ballyward - National Hunt Chase
Willie Mullins must think highly of Ballyward as he is the only entry from the Co. Carlow maestro in the National Hunt Chase, and he is an eye-catching second favourite in the race.
Willie's son Patrick is likely to take the ride in the amateur's four-mile contest, and Ballyward was last seen winning a Grade 3 novice chase over three miles in decent fashion and he can go very close in a race that will all be about stamina.
Uradel - Coral Cup
Having saddled Bleu Berry to victory in last season's Coral Cup, Willie Mullins will have another strong candidate in this year's renewal and Uradel is entitled to be heading the betting at the moment.
He is entered in a few handicaps over the four days, but the Coral Cup looks an ideal fit for a horse that finished second in a Cesarewitch on the Flat and warmed up for this race with a decent fifth placed finish in a competitive handicap hurdle at Leopardstown over a trip on the sharp side.
Min - Ryanair Chase
I'm not one for telling Willie Mullins where to place his horses, but he'd be foolish to hand Min the monster task of trying to defeat Altior in the Queen Mother Champion Chase and he must be targeted at the Ryanair Chase.
A winner over 2m 4f at Punchestown this season, Min lacks the pace needed at Championship level over two miles, so the Ryanair is ideal for him and with questions hanging over Cyrname's participation then this classy performer can strike gold on the third day of the festival.
Faugheen - Stayers' Hurdle
Before Paisley Park's romp in the Cleeve Hurdle, the Stayers' Hurdle was a wide open betting heat, but while that exciting stayer has launched into outright favouritism there could still be a forgotten name in the field.
Faugheen was the star hurdler a few years ago and his Champion Hurdle victory is one of the most memorable wins this century, but following a litany of injuries he has fallen down the pecking order somewhat. A faller when trying to close down Apple's Jade at Leopardstown over Christmas, the horse once dubbed 'The Machine' can bounce back to form and be a major player over three miles in the Stayers' Hurdle on March 15.