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Cheltenham Chances: A look at Willie Mullins' Festival runners

With the Cheltenham Festival now inching ever closer we'll be assessing the hopes of some of the top trainers in our new Cheltenham Chances slot.

There is only one place to start - with The Festival's all-time winning-most trainer: Willie Mullins.

Ireland's champion trainer has been leading handler at the meeting eight times since 2011 and he's sure to have another heavy-artillery team bound for the Cotswolds from 15th-18th March.

Here is a look at some of his leading contenders for Festival glory in 2022.

Fast start always likely

Mullins' team has often got out of the gates quickly in recent years. He has won the curtain-raising Supreme Novices' Hurdle five times in the last nine years, including when Appreciate It blitzed the field last year.

Dysart Dynamo is now 10/3 to win the Supreme after making it 2-2 over hurdles with a wide-margin win in the Grade 2 Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle in Ireland. He looked quite special in that win, though he did race keenly early on.

Stablemate and 6/1 chance Sir Gerhard could also be aimed at this race, he of course won the Champion Bumper last season, but they both face major opposition in the form of Nicky Henderson's unbeaten duo Constitution Hill - priced at 2/1 - and Jonbon, in what is shaping up to be a cracking Cheltenham Festival opener.

The aforementioned Appreciate It saw plans to go chasing abandoned and is instead being primed for a tilt at the Champion Hurdle, a race he's 5/1 to win.

Stablemate Sharjah, twice runner-up in the race recently, is 6/1, though both have the long shadow of defending champion Honeysuckle to fret over.

Mullins' utter domination of the Mares' Hurdle owed much to Quevega, winner six times, and it's worth noting he's now returned a paltry - by his standards - one win in the last five years.

Stormy Ireland won the Grade 2 Relkeel Hurdle on New Year's Day and is 5/1 to bag the Mares' Grade 1 on 15th March.

Most Festival wins as a trainer

Willie Mullins78
Nicky Henderson64
Paul Nicholls46
Fulke Walwyn40
Martin Pipe34

Galopin to Festival glory again?

Galopin Des Champs won the Martin Pipe over timber at this meeting last year, before adding a Grade 1 novice contest at Punchestown and is a major Mullins player in the Brown Advisory Novices' Chase this time around.

He thumped his rivals at Leopardstown over Christmas with an exhilarating round of jumping on chasing debut and is 6/4 to win this three-miler on day two of the meeting.

The feature on day two is of course the Queen Mother Champion Chase and Energumene is 3/1 for glory and what's likely to be revenge on Shishkin if he can achieve it.

The duo served up a spell-binding contest in the Clarence House at Ascot and hopes are high that their rivalry can develop in a multi-chaptered one.

A length eventually split them at Ascot and there's plenty of reasons to feel Energumene could have his payback.

The Champion Chase remains the only one of Cheltenham's four Championship heats to elude Mullins and he could also run Chacun Pour Soi here.

Rich Ricci's charge is now a 8/1 chance, having been beaten last year as odds-on favourite and disappointed in the Tingle Creek at Sandown this term.

With 11 wins already, the Champion Bumper is another race that Mullins has farmed down the years - though it's not always easy to pick through his contenders in Wednesday's concluding race.

Related Cheltenham News

Cheltenham: The Festival: Day-by-day schedule

Cheltenham: The Champion Hurdle: All you need to know

Cheltenham: The Stayers Hurdle: All you need to know

Cheltenham: Shishkin's House party steals the show

All aboard Allaho's Ryanair journey

Allaho produced one of the best performances of The Festival in 2021 when bludgeoning his Ryanair Chase rivals from the front and the Cheveley Park Stud-owned inmate is now 5/4 to repeat the feat on 17th March.

Allaho is already 2-2 this season, dominating the John Durkan at Punchestown in December and again at Thurles on Sunday last and relieving him of this crown could be a mammoth task.

Mullins also has 2/1 market leader Klassical Dream in the Stayers Hurdle.

The 2019 Supreme scorer has endured tough times with setbacks since, but he's right back on target after winning his second three-mile Grade 1 in two attempts over Christmas.

He beat the reigning Stayers' Hurdle kingpin Flooring Porter there and the pair join Champ in what could be a cracking contest.

Can Mullins land a big-race day three double and send Irish punters into clover on St Patrick's Day?

Al Boum attempts to regain Blue Riband

Al Boum Photo was thwarted last spring in his quest to win three Gold Cups on the trot as he finished third behind Minella Indo and A Plus Tard.

The trio may all return on 18th March for what's looking like an increasingly wide open Gold Cup.

Al Boum Photo is a 8/1 chance to regain the festival showpiece - something only Kauto Star has managed previously having won it, then lost it.

Stablemate Tornado Flyer is 10/1 for Gold Cup glory, having stunned some big names in the King George at Kempton on Boxing Day.

Another Mullins inmate, Asterion Forlonge is 14/1, having come down at the final fence in the Christmas showpiece just as he was seemingly about to come and challenge Tornado Flyer.

If the latter can get around in one piece, he's got quite an engine.

Mullins had the one-two in the inaugural Mares' Chase last year, as now-retired Colreevy fended off Elimay.

Concertista, so narrowly denied in the Mares' Hurdle last term, has really taken well to fencing this season and at 11/4 she looks the standout candidate for the Mares' Chase in the colours of Simon Munir and Isaac Suede.

Could she be the one to round off another big week for WP Mullins at the Cheltenham Festival?

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