Festival hopes rest with Mullins
There appears to be some confidence developing in Irish trained horses bouncing back to more prolific winning form at Cheltenham 2013 with one bookmaker predicting up eight Irish-trained winners at the festival in less than four weeks time.
However, the Stan James firm also point out that Irish fortunes will depend almost exclusively on the Willie Mullins team, and even more so with the likely absence of Flemenstar from the festival.
Peter Casey’s star had been rated a big hope for the Ryanair, or possibly the Queen Mother Champion Chase, but his probably absence due to a lung-infection, will place even more emphasis on the Mullins horses when the festival kicks off.
Nevertheless Stan James rates a spread of six to eight winners as their 6 to 4 favourite in the always popular market for the number of Irish successes at Cheltenham. Next best is more than eight at 7 to 4 while there has reportedly been little or no interest in the under-six winners market, despite just five Irish winners at the 2012 festival.
That was a huge drop from the record 13 of two years ago. “This can often be a very lively market at this time of year when rumours about the well being of various contenders do the rounds,” the firm spokesman Joseph Burke said yesterday.
Aintree’s Grade One Mumm Melling Chase over two and a half miles in April is a possible option for Flemenstar after confirmation he was having treatment for a lung infection following his runner-up placing to Sir Des Champs in Saturday’s Hennessy Gold Cup.