Mullins set to continue Cheltenham dominance


Willie Mullins saddled a record eight winners at last year's Cheltenham Festival and it promises to be another week to remember for the legendary Irish trainer 12 months on.

The County Carlow-based handler arrived in Gloucestershire with a string of well-fancied horses four the world famous four-day meeting - which gets underway on Tuesday.

Mullins has saddled 41 Cheltenham Festival winners and was crowned the leading training in each of the last three years, as well as four of the last five.

His success last year was unprecedented, with the impressive Un De Sceaux, Faugheen, Don Poli and Vautour among the winners as the wily Mullins took his Cheltenham dominance to another level.

There was a major disappointment for Mullins when Annie Power fell at the last under a motionless Ruby Walsh after surging clear in the Mares' Hurdle - a blunder which saved the bookmakers a reported £50million.

There will be no Faugheen masterclass this week due to injury, but Annie Power will return for a shot at the Champion Hurdle on the opening day of the Festival and Nichols Canyon is also a leading contender in the same race.

Min is well fancied to get Mullins and Walsh, eyeing a fourth champion jockey title in a row and a 10th in the last 13 years, off to a winning start in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle, while Douvan will be expected to romp home in the Arkle Chase.

Last year's Arkle winner Un De Sceaux is a strong favourite to fend off the likes of Sprinter Sacre and Dodging Bullets in the Queen Mother Champion Chase on Wednesday.

But what Mullins would cherish most of all is to finally get his hands on a Gold Cup which has so far eluded him in his remarkable career and he has three strong contenders in Vautour, Don Poli and Djakadam.

Don Cossack, trained by Gordon Elliott, is a narrow favourite for the main event of the week on Friday, but Cue Card is sure to attract plenty of support under Paddy Brennan.

Victories in the Betfair Chase and the King George this season ensured Cue Card will pick up a £1million bonus if the 10-year-old gelding completes the hat-trick with a Gold Cup triumph.

And there will be plenty of intrigue for the race which follows the Gold Cup, after dual Olympic cycling gold medallist Victoria Pendleton was given the nod to ride in the Foxhunter Chase.

The 35-year-old opted to switch from one saddle to another after ending her cycling career and will board Pacha Du Polder for the three-mile, two-and-a-half furlong race over 22 fences.

Pendleton said she would view finishing the race as a victory, but Mullins has very different expectations this week.