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How many novice chases will Willie Mullins carry off this year?

Last year Willie Mullins’ six novice chasers at the festival yielded one win and one place, with the Carlow handler cherry-picking the Jewson Novices Chase for most-likely winner Sir Des Champs. Aupcharlie looks primed to follow in his stablemate’s footsteps.

The Closutton maestro has yet to win an Arkle in his training career and although he’s represented by Arvika Ligeonniere (unbeaten in three completed chases) this time around, the imposing shape of Nicky Henderson’s Simonsig stands in the way.

The market-leading grey will take all the beating having proved his liking for the track when destroying his rivals over 2m4f in the Neptune Novices Hurdle at last year’s Festival and he’s racked up an aggregate winning distance of 84 lengths in two chase starts to date.

The Jewson was the race targeted by Mullins with Sir Des Champs last year and he looks to have another live candidate in Aupcharlie.

The seven-year-old has been outstayed in the dying strides in his last two races, both over 3m, but was a cosy 11-length victor on his sole tilt at the Jewson’s 2m4f trip over fences.

His 3m runs suggest more than enough staying power for 2m4f and furthermore he scored his chase win at that trip over Gowran Park’s undulating furlongs, indicating that Cheltenham’s tricky inclines won’t unduly affect his rhythm at greater speeds.

Mullins’ Boston Bob is the only horse in the top seven in the RSA betting to have so much as competed in a race as long as 3m on an undulating track such as Cheltenham.

His two-length second to the ill-fated Brindisi Breeze in last year’s 3m Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle at the Festival advertised his stamina credentials in the heat of a championship race at a testing track. Having once again looked every inch the stayer over shorter distances in his two unbeaten runs this term; he could really come into his own over the draining 3m of the RSA trip.