Willie Mullins is the all-time leading Irish trainer at the Cheltenham Festival with 29 successes and has won The Irish Independent Leading Trainer Award at two of the last three Festivals, with five successes last year and four in 2011.

He has built up a formidable team of horses at his Co Carlow base which includes the following prospects for this year’s Cheltenham Festival:

Potential Weatherbys Champion Bumper contenders

Black Hercules (IRE)

5 b g Heron Island (IRE) – Annalecky (IRE) (Bob’s Return (IRE))

Form: –11

Owner: Andrea & Graham Wylie     Breeder: Spencer Hawkins

  • Won a Dromahane point-to-point impressively by six lengths in April, 2013.
  • Made a winning debut under Rules with a two and a half length success in a Punchestown bumper on 8 December.
  • Built on that in a competitive winners’ bumper at Gowran Park on 23 January, scoring decisively by eight and a half lengths.

Race record: Starts: 2; Wins: 2; 2nd: –; 3rd: -; Win & Place Prize Money: £12,243

Shaneshill (IRE)

5 b g King´s Theatre (IRE) – Darabaka (IRE) (Doyoun)

Form: –11

Owner: Andrea & Graham Wylie     Breeder: Declan Johnson

  • Half-brother to very useful Flat performer Far Cry.
  • Got off the mark at the first time of asking under Rules, beating Joshua Lane and Wounded Warrior in a Naas bumper on 9 November.
  • Doubled up at Fairyhouse on 30 November, quickening smartly to win by 11 lengths.

Race record: Starts: 2; Wins: 2; 2nd: –; 3rd: -; Win & Place Prize Money: £10,098

Royal Caviar (IRE)

6 b g Vinnie Roe (IRE) – Blackwater Babe (IRE) (Arctic Lord)

Form: –11d  

Owner: Susannah Ricci     Breeder: Kevin Fox

  • Purchased for £90,000 at the Brightwells Cheltenham Sale in April following an eight-length victory in a Castletown-Geoghegan point-to-point earlier the same month.
  • Impressed when scoring by six and a half lengths on bumper debut for current connections at Fairyhouse on 20 November.
  • First past the post in a Grade Two contest at Navan on 15 December, but disqualified and placed second behind Fine Rightly after causing interference.

Race record: Starts: 2; Wins: 1; 2nd: 1; 3 rd: –; Win & Place Prize Money: £8,175

Novice hurdlers

Briar Hill (IRE)

6 b g Shantou (USA) – Backaway (IRE) (Bob Back (USA))

Form: 11–111

Owner: Andrea & Graham Wylie     Breeder: Victor Connolly

  • Won an Irish point-to-point on 19 May, 2012; impressive seven-length winner of last year’s Weatherbys Champion Bumper at The Festival after initial win at Thurles on 3 January.
  • Made winning debut over hurdles at Wexford in November, 2013, but only had one rival to beat when making all in the Grade One Navan Novice Hurdle over two and a half miles on 15 December.
  • Maintained unbeaten record under Rules with a gutsy two and a half-length victory over Apache Jack in Grade Two Slaney Novice Hurdle over the same trip at Naas on 5 January.

Jump race record: Starts: 5; Wins: 5; 2nd: –; 3rd: –; Win & Place Prize Money: £99,609

Entries at The Festival: Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle, Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle

Faugheen (IRE)

6 b g Germany (USA) – Miss Pickering (IRE) (Accordion (IRE)

Form: –1111

Owner: Susannah Ricci     Breeder: Dr John Waldron

  • Won Irish point-to-point on 29 April, 2012; created big impression when running away with a Punchestown bumper in May, 2013, beating Josses Hill by 22 lengths.
  • Stepped up to two miles and six furlongs on hurdling debut in November, 2013, also at Punchestown, and not extended to win by six and a half lengths.
  • Beat Empire Of Dirt by four and a quarter lengths in a two and a half mile novice hurdle at Navan on 7 December, before a five-length victory in a three-mile Grade Three contest at Limerick over Christmas.
  • Unbeaten and favourite for the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle.

Jump race record: Starts: 4; Wins: 4; 2nd: –; 3rd: –; Win & Place Prize Money: £34,134

Entries at The Festival: Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle, Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle

Vautour (FR)

5 b g Robin Des Champs (FR) – Gazelle De Mai (FR) (Dom Pasquini (FR))

Form: 22–111

Owner: Susannah Ricci     Breeder: Haras De Saint Voir & Patrick Joubert

  • French import; runner-up over hurdles at Pau and Auteuil for trainer Guillaume Macaire.
  • Beat subsequent winner Lieutenant Colonel easily by five lengths in two-mile maiden hurdle at Navan on debut for current connections in December, 2013.
  • Had to fight to get the better of Western Boy in the Grade Two Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle at Punchestown on 11 January, winning by three quarters of a length.
  • Jumped superbly when making the running to win Grade One Deloitte Novice Hurdle over two and a quarter miles at Leopardstown on 9 February.
  • Favourite for the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.

Jump race record: Starts: 5; Wins 3; 2nd: 2; 3rd: –; Win & Place Prize Money: £85,421

Entries at The Festival: Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle, Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle

Novice Chasers

Ballycasey (IRE)

7 gr g Presenting – Pink Mist (IRE) (Montelimar (USA))

Form: 1/113–11

Owner: Susannah Ricci      Breeder: R Tanner

  • Off the course for nearly a year after winning a Leopardstown bumper in December, 2011.
  • Returned with eye-catching wins in novice hurdles at Clonmel and Thurles and was a leading contender for the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at last year’s Festival before a setback ruled him out on the morning of the race.
  • Rounded off that campaign when third to Morning Assembly in a three-mile Grade One at the Punchestown Festival in April, 2013.
  • Made winning chase debut over two miles and a furlong at Navan on 24 November, prior to decisive four-length victory over Don Cossack in the Grade One Dr P J Moriarty Novice Chase over two miles and five furlongs at Leopardstown on 9 February.

Jump race record: Starts: 6; Wins: 5; 2nd: -; 3rd: –; Win & Place Prize Money: £75,820

Entries at The Festival: Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy Chase, National Hunt Chase, RSA Chase, JLT Novices’ Chase

Champagne Fever (IRE)

7 gr g Stowaway – Forever Bubbles (IRE) (Roselier (FR))

Form: 2111/123113-13

Owner: Susannah Ricci     Breeder: John Cahil

  • Successful in only Irish point-to-point on 24 April, 2011. Won the Weatherbys Champion Bumper at the 2012 Cheltenham Festival and took another Grade One National Hunt Flat race at Punchestown the following month.
  • Three from six over hurdles last season, with the highlight being a gutsy front-running victory over My Tent Or Yours in the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at The Festival.
  • Always spoken of as a chaser and made all for an easy winning debut over fences at Punchestown over two and a half miles in November.
  • Sent off favourite for the Grade One Racing Post Novice Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas over two miles and a furlong and finished third to Defy Logic following a bad mistake at the penultimate fence.
  • Favourite for the Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy Chase.

Jump race record: Starts: 12; Wins: 7; 2nd: 2; 3rd: 3; Win & Place Prize Money: £230,764

Entries at The Festival: Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy Chase, RSA Chase, JLT Novices’ Chase

Djakadam (FR)

5 b g Saint Des Saints (FR) – Rainbow Crest (FR) (Baryshnikov (AUS)

Form: 2/U1124–11

Owner: Susannah Ricci     Breeder: Richard Corveller

  • French import; won on two of his five starts (at Gowran and Limerick) in juvenile hurdles last season, ending campaign with fourth in the Champion Four-Year-Old Hurdle at the Punchestown Festival.
  • Got the better of Si C’Etait Vrai in a two mile and three furlong beginners’ chase on debut over fences at Leopardstown over Christmas.
  • Returned to the Dublin track on 25 January and was the decisive four-length winner of the Grade Two Killiney Novice Chase over two miles and five furlongs.

Jump race record: Starts: 8; Wins: 4; 2nd: 2; 3rd: –; Win & Place Prize Money: £52,896

Entries at The Festival: Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy Chase, RSA Chase, JLT Novices’ Chase

Felix Yonger (IRE)

8 b g Oscar (IRE) – Marble Sound (IRE) (Be My Native (USA))

Form: 210/21125/11122

Owner: Andrea & Graham Wylie     Breeder: J Brophy

  • Raced in Ireland initially when second in a December, 2010 Leopardstown bumper (trained by Tony Mullins). Won a Musselburgh bumper the following month when trained in Britain by Howard Johnson.
  • Moved to Willie Mullins and developed into high-class hurdler during the 2011/2012 season, winning a Grade Two contest at Naas and finishing the seven-length second to Simonsig in the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle at The Festival.
  • Returned from over a year off to make a successful chasing debut over two and half miles at Punchestown in May, 2013.
  • Dropped back to about two miles and recorded decisive victories over Defy Logic in a Grade Two at Punchestown in November and Trifolium at Navan, both of whom have subsequently won Grade Ones.
  • Beaten when stepped back up to two and a half miles at Limerick over Christmas before filling the runner-up spot behind Trifolium in the Irish Arkle at Leopardstown on 25 January.

Jump race record: Starts: 16; Wins: 6; 2nd: 5; 3rd: –; Win & Place Prize Money: £115,866

Entries at The Festival: Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy Chase, JLT Novices’ Chase

Hurdlers

Annie Power (IRE)

6 ch m Shirocco (GER) – Anno Luce (Old Vic)

Form: 1111111–111

Owner: Susannah Ricci      Breeder: Eamon Cleary

Summary

  • Outstanding unbeaten mare whose first two bumper starts in August, 2012, came when trained by Jim Bolger for breeder Eamon Cleary.
  • After joining Willie Mullins, she won a Listowel bumper and four starts over hurdles last season, including a Grade One at Fairyhouse on 31 March.
  • All three of her starts this season have been in Britain – in the Grade Two Coral Hurdle at Ascot on 23 November, at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day and in the Grade Two OLBG.com Mares’ Hurdle at Doncaster on 25 January.

Race Record: Starts: 10; Wins: 10; 2nd: 0; 3rd: 0; Prize Money: £187,868

Entries at The Festival: Stan James Champion Hurdle, Ladbrokes World Hurdle

HURRICANE FLY – CLICK HERE FOR FACTFILE

Quevega (FR) (pictured)

10 b m Robin Des Champs (FR) – Vega IV (FR) (Cap Martin (FR))

Form: 433111119/311/3911/1/111/11–

Owner: Hammer & Trowel Syndicate     Breeder: Pierre Rives

  • Set to bid for an unprecedented sixth consecutive victory in the Grade Two OLBG Mares’ Hurdle at The Festival.
  • Won three bumpers in France as three-year-old in 2007 for Bertrand de Watrigant.
  • Her first victory for Mullins came at Punchestown in February, 2008, and 13 months later she won her first OLBG Mares’ Hurdle at Cheltenham.
  • She has made her seasonal debut in each subsequent year at The Festival, going on to Punchestown afterwards, where she has won the last four Ladbrokes World Series Hurdles.

Race Record: Starts: 22; Wins: 15; 2nd: –; 3rd: 4; Win & Place Prize Money: £669,784

Entries at The Festival: Ladbrokes World Hurdle, likely to be entered in OLBG Mares’ Hurdle

Un De Sceaux (FR)

6 b g Denham Red-Hotesse De Sceaux (FR) (April Night (FR))

Form: 1/111–111

Owner: Edward O’Connell      Breeder: Haras De La Rousseliere et al

  • Won two AQPS (part-thoroughbred) bumpers in France for Fabrice Foucher in 2012 before joining Willie Mullins.
  • Won maiden hurdle at Punchestown on debut for Mullins on 20 February, 2013, and went on to win novice hurdle at Punchestown Festival.
  • Easily won his three starts this season, at Thurles on 22 December, Navan on 12 January and Gowran Park on 15 February. Has never been seriously tested in any of his races.

Race Record: Starts: 7; Wins: 7; 2nd: 0; 3rd: 0; Prize Money: £65,626

Entries at The Festival: Stan James Champion Hurdle

Chasers

Arvika Ligeonniere (FR)

9 b g Arvico – Daraka (FR) (Akarad (FR))

Form: 2/41241/111FP1–1131

Owner: Susannah Ricci     Breeder: Yves Lepage

  • Progressive chaser who excels between two and two and a half miles.
  • After one start in France, won over hurdles for Willie Mullins at Fairyhouse in January, 2010, and went on to be fourth in that year’s Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at The Festival.
  • Had two years off being making a winning start over fences at Punchestown in May, 2012.
  • Went on to three Grade One successes last season, including the Ryanair Novice Chase at the Punchestown Festival.
  • He has won on three of his four starts this season, including the Grade One John Durkan Memorial Chase at Punchestown on 8 December and most recently the Grade Two Tied Cottage Chase at the same course on 4 February.

Race Record: Starts: 16; Wins: 9; 2nd: 2; 3rd: 1; Win & Place Prize Money: £278,490

Entries at The Festival: BetVictor Queen Mother Champion Chase, Ryanair Chase

GUIDE TO THE FESTIVAL AT CHELTENHAM 2014 – CLICK HERE

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