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Mighty Mullins 2/5 to be leading trainer at the Cheltenham Festival

Champion Irish trainer Willie Mullins looks to have one of his strongest Cheltenham Festival teams for many a year and is not surprisingly 2/5 with Coral to land this year’s top trainer award at the four¬day meeting.

The County Carlow handler has had 29 winners at the Festival since 1995, and won The Irish Independent Leading Trainer Award last year after saddling five winners.

Among those were Champagne Fever, Hurricane Fly and Quevega who are all in this year’s raiding party and currently head the betting in the Arkle Chase, Champion Hurdle and Mares’ Hurdle respectively.

Mullins also has another major player in the older horse division in the shape of the unbeaten six-year¬old mare Annie Power, who holds entries in the Champion Hurdle and World Hurdle.

That is a formidable team, and Mullins also has a whole host of leading fancies in the novice championships in Vautour (Supreme Novices’ Hurdle), (Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle) and Ballycasey (Royal Sun Alliance Chase).

He has also farmed the Champion Bumper since it was first run in 1992, winning the race eight times, and has a very strong entry contingent this year including the unbeaten trio of Shaneshill, Black Hercules and Royal Caviar.

Given the strength-in-depth of his team it’s no surprise that he is odds-on to be leading trainer for the third time.

However, Nicky Henderson and Paul Nicholls look sure to give him a run for his money.

Henderson is the most successful trainer in the history of the Festival and became the first to reach 50 winners at the meeting when Bobs Worth triumphed in the Cheltenham Gold Cup 12 months ago.

That horse is the 2/1 favourite with Coral to successfully defend his crown, and Henderson’s other stable star Sprinter Sacre is 4/5 to win the Queen Mother Champion Chase for the second year running.

Away from the “big two” the Seven Barrows’ handler also looks to have leading chances with Josses Hill (Supreme Novices’ Hurdle), Grandouet (Arkle Chase), Royal Boy (Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle), Dawalan (Fred Winter Handicap Hurdle) and Oscar Whisky (JLT Novices’ Chase).

He is 4/1 with Coral to be leading trainer.

Nicholls has been leading trainer six times and is fourth on the all-time list with 33 successes, despite only saddling his first winner at the meeting in 1999.

He is 7/2 with Coral to win this year’s title, and his big guns in the older division are Big Buck’s (World Hurdle), Silviniaco Conti (Gold Cup) and Al Ferof (Queen Mother/Ryanair).

The Ditcheat maestro also has a very strong team in the novice championships in Irving (Supreme Novices’ Hurdle), Dodging Bullets (Arkle), Sam Winner (Royal Sun Alliance Chase), Wonderful Charm (JLT) Novices’ Chase) and Calipto (Triumph Hurdle).

He is also yet to decide on a target for the exciting and progressive Saphir Du Rheu who holds entries in the Coral Cup, Pertemps Final and the World Hurdle.