WILLIE Mullins may have fallen short in his bid to steal the UK trainers’ title from Paul Nicholls but he is poised to become the King of Punchestown again this week. At last year’s Festival, the trainer won an amazing 16 of the 37 races and he looks set to be well represented at this year’s five-day meeting, which starts on Tuesday.
Mullins has been top trainer at the Punchestown Festival for 13 of the last 15 years with only Noel Meade pooping the Mullins party in 2005 and 2002.
This year Mullins’ equine artillery will include:
DOUVAN: The Cheltenham and Aintree winner is probably the most exciting chaser in the land and looks primed for the Grade 1 Ryanair Novice Chase on Thursday. It should be another walk in the park for this imposing animal.
VAUTOUR: Runs in Tuesday’s Boylesports Champion Chase and it will be fascinating to see how he copes with a return to 2m. Simonsig and Special Tiara will provide stern opposition.
ANNIE POWER: One of the best mares of the past 30 years is set for Friday’s Grade 1 BETDAQ Punchestown Champion Hurdle on the back of her impressive victories in the Champion Hurdle and Aintree Hurdle. She will be joined by stablemate Sempre Medici.
APPLE’S JADE: Second in the Triumph and a spectacular winner by 41 lengths at Aintree, she will target Saturday’s Grade 1 AES Champion 4YO Hurdle.
DJAKADAM, DON POLI: Mullins is likely to have at least a couple of runners in the Grade 1 Bibby Financial Services Ireland Punchestown Gold Cup on Wednesday, although it could be hard to see them reverse Aintree form with Cue Card. The race has lost some of its lustre with the defection of Gold Cup winner Don Cossack.
LIMINI, VROUM VROUM MAG: Mullins has won all three runnings of the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares Champion Hurdle and he hopes that Limini can make it four. Vroum Vroum Mag, controversially pulled out at Sandown on Saturday, may also run.
YORKHILL: This exciting young horse will bid to complete a Cheltenham/Aintree/Punchestown treble when lining up in Tuesday’s Grade 1 Herald Champion Novice Hurdle.
OUTLANDER: In Tuesday’s Grade 1 Growise Champion Novice Chase, Mullins is hopeful that Outlander can make amends for a fall at Cheltenham and subsequent defeat at Fairyhouse.