Given that Willie Mullins has saddled 54 winners at the Cheltenham Festival, the sight of lorries rolling into the Gloucestershire town this week with WP Mullins etched on the side would have sent chills down the spine of the English racing fraternity.
It’s unlikely that news of Ruby Walsh’s winning return to the saddle at Thurles on Thursday would have been the source of much jubilation to them either.
The Kill native holds the record for the number of winners at a single Cheltenham Festival having graced the winners’ enclosures on seven occasions in 2009 – a record he would equal in 2016.
Given that the Closutton-based trainer has claimed three of the last five renewals of the Supreme Novices Hurdle it is unsurprising to see one of his raiders at the head of the market once more.
The Rich Ricci owned Getabird represents Mullins’ first string in the festival opener having won all four of his career starts to date – cruising to a comfortable nine-length victory in the Moscow Flyer Novices Hurdle at Punchestown in January in the hands of Patrick Mullins.
He has previously won on soft to heavy ground, however, connections have admitted he is not the most straightforward sort and his seemingly fragile nature may be enough reason for the bookies to take him on.
Interestingly, it was the Gordon Elliott trained Mengli Khan who chased him home at Punchestown on a day when the runner-up was conceding weight to the winner.
On his previous start, the Gigginstown owned gelding was seemingly travelling eye-catchingly well prior to jumping out through the wings of the second last flight.
Despite that blotch on his copybook however, Elliott appears hopeful that he can give each way backers a solid run for their money.
However, the market would suggest that it is the Amy Murphy trained Kalashnikov that represents the principal danger to the favourite. The Paul Murphy owned five-year-old would certainly seem to be a progressive sort having won the keenly contested Betfair Hurdle at Newbury over just over two miles on soft ground.
A pacey sort, he did finish behind Summerville Boy prior to that at Sandown, another that he will face at Cheltenham. The ground was heavy on the day which doesn’t appear to be to his liking, thus, connections will be hoping the rain stays away over the next 24 hours.
The 9/2 currently on offer may seem more inviting to many that the shorter priced alternative. The talented Jack Quinlan will once again be on the plate and seems rather bullish about his mount’s chances.
Paloma Blue is another who may catch the eye of a few at a big price on the back of finishing third to Samcro on soft to heavy ground at Leopardstown having travelled freely in the opening stages.
The six-year-old is currently under the stewardship of Henry de Bromhead who stands fourth in this year’s Trainer Championship – one of just four trainers to break the €1 million barrier in the prize money stakes.
It is perhaps worth noting that nine of the last ten winners of the race have been five or six-year-olds – The JP McManus owned seven-year-old, Captain Cee Bee was seven when winning the 2008 renewal.