Regular British raids boosts Willie Mullins’ Cheltenham 2014 chances
Willie Mullins secured leading trainer status at the Cheltenham Festival for the second time in three years last season and news that the master of Closutton is planning a greater involvement in British racing in the new campaign will only aid his chances of repeating the dose in 2014.
His five winners at last year’s shindig followed hot on the heels of a best-of-the-bunch four in 2011 and established the champion Irish trainer as one of the go-to men for winning bets at Prestbury Park in March.
Last year long-standing Mullins Cheltenham heroes Hurricane Fly, Quevega and Champagne Fever scored on their annual trips across the Irish Sea.
However, there will have been many of his other horses for whom the experience of travelling across from Ireland was a new and daunting one, with their Festival performance affected as a result.
Meanwhile others who had trounced all comers in the Emerald Isle such as Pont Alexandre were exposed to a more competitive level of racing for the first time, with underwhelming consequences.
A desire to keep his best horses apart on race day and thus win more prize money is reportedly the reason for plans to increase the frequency of British raiding parties from his County Carlow base during 2013/14.
Such a course of action could be useful both for Mullins’ Festival chances and punters looking to get a better handle on their Cheltenham 2014 odds, with the form of Irish raiders often difficult to weigh up against the British opponents they meet at Prestbury Park.
Meanwhile the trainer’s customary gaggle of exciting novices should benefit from more competitive introductory races during the season and arrive at Cheltenham more streetwise and battle-hardened as a result.