Willie Mullins' Horse-by-horse Cheltenham Festival guide
Bill Esdaile visited Willie Mullins’ Closutton yard this week
Not since Roman times has a legion crossed the sea to England with such strength in depth or hope of conquering all before them.
Yet unlike previous generals, County Carlow’s very own Caesar is happy for others to manage the logistics of the 2015 invasion, which will see upwards of 50 horses make the journey over from Leinster.
After revealing that he has previously left a horse behind that was entered for a race and brought another that wasn’t entered at all, he’s concentrating on his own preparations.
But as he assesses each runner’s chances in this handy A-Z guide, he’s hoping the only mistake this year will be made by the bookie that’s brave enough to take on his troops.
Alvisio Ville (Supreme): “We’ve taken him out of the Albert Bartlett but he is still in the Supreme and Neptune. I think connections are favouring the former. I’m worried he may have learnt some bad habits in the Delloite”
Annie Power (Mares’ Hurdle): “We’re training her for the Mares’ Hurdle at the moment and has done everything we’ve asked of her since coming back.”
Arctic Fire (Champion Hurdle): “I thought he was the best of the bunch a couple of years ago and we have not seen the best of him yet. He’s improving all the time and the strong pace in the Champion Hurdle will suit.”
Ballycasey (Undecided): “I think he is better than he showed at Ascot. He is in the Ryanair and a couple of handicaps, and will probably travel as there are not a lot of options for him.”
Black Hercules (Albert Bartlett): “He’s more than likely to go for the Albert Bartlett as he’s in good form.”
Boston Bob (Gold Cup): “He will go for the Gold Cup. If we put him in the Ryanair and he wins people will wonder why we didn’t put him in the bigger race.”
Champagne Fever (Champion Chase or Ryanair): “Connections are favouring the Betway Champion Chase. He jumped fantastically at Gowran and really enjoyed it. He’s been on fire since.”
Djakadam (Gold Cup): "I think the extra couple of furlongs he’ll get in the Gold Cup will help him. He had top-weight at Gowran, which is a fair test of any horse, especially in that ground. I think it was a Gold Cup performance.”
Don Poli (RSA or National Hunt Chase): "I think the Gigginstown team and Bryan Cooper are favouring the RSA Chase. I look at his style of running and think the four-miler will really suit him. We will have a discussion.”
Douvan (Supreme): "He has got lots of ability and each time we ask him to do something, he comes up with the answer. We have never taken a better horse to the Festival before.”
Discosimo (Triumph): "His win at Gowran suggests he might be the best of our three in the Triumph. All being well he’ll go for that.”
Faugheen (Champion Hurdle): "To have a potential champion hurdler in the yard is huge. We prepared him for the Red Mills Trial, but Ruby said he didn't need any more experience. He is doing everything right.”
Glens Melody (Mares’ Hurdle): "She showed last year that she is well up to winning races and the Mares' Hurdle is her aim again. She’s been very good again this year."
Hurricane Fly (Champion Hurdle): "People say he can't win because of his age, but he is class. He’s won two Champion Hurdles from four starts proving that when he’s really right he has won. It would be my dream result for the whole of Cheltenham if Hurricane Fly could win a third Champion Hurdle. He is our king.”
Kalkir (Triumph): "He was very good behind our mare at Leopardstown last time, and I think he will improve from that. He’s all set for the Triumph Hurdle.”
Max Dynamite (Neptune): "I think he is a Neptune horse. He may run this weekend and that will tell us more.”
McKinley (Neptune): "My initial thought would be the Neptune but, to be honest, I don't know what we are going to do with him at the moment.”
Nichols Canyon (Neptune): "He will have no problem staying the extra distance in the Neptune. Some people have said he could be another Inglis Drever for his owner. He stays two miles on the Flat and can go out to any trip."
On His Own (Gold Cup): "He has so much stamina which is what the Gold Cup is all about. The test really suits him. He loves an end-to-end gallop and I am hoping he will be there again at the finish."
Outlander (Neptune): "It will more than likely be the Neptune for him. I was disappointed with him at Limerick and surprised when he won at Leopardstown as a result."
Petite Parisienne (Triumph): "She’s classy mare and will have a good chance in the Triumph Hurdle. She was unlucky not to win first time at Punchestown and it was no surprise that she won last time.”
Shaneshill (Supreme): "He is coming back and may end up in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle. That is the plan at the moment but I will have to see how he works in the build-up because he missed a bit of time.”
Tell Us More (Neptune): "It will depend on how he gallops before we decide on him going in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle or the Neptune. He has to come back right and please me at home before he goes at all.
Un De Sceaux (Arkle): "If he takes to jumping fences at Cheltenham he’s going to put up a big show in the Arkle. But it is going to be a huge test for him given his style which is almost heart-stopping. Punters and bookmakers have decided that if he stays up, he wins - and I am happy to go with that!"
Valseur Lido (JLT or RSA): "He will improve for his last run. What wins the Moriarty usually goes on to the RSA Chase and that's the way I would like to go with him. But that might not suit Gigginstown so I can see him going for the JLT. He will be a contender in both races.
Vautour (JLT): "At the moment he is going for the JLT Novices' Chase. I still have a good bit of work to do to get him back to where he was last December. He will do that this week and next week and I think it will come. He is bred to stay but has the stride and speed for two miles.”