Willie Mullins enters 22 runners for Cheltenham’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle

Ireland’s perennial champion trainer has won three of last four renewals

Melon ridden by Ruby Walsh will head the Closutton team in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham. Photograph: PA Wire

Melon ridden by Ruby Walsh will head the Closutton team in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham. Photograph: PA Wire

 

Willie Mullins is responsible for 22 of the 83 entries for the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham.

Ireland’s perennial champion trainer has won three of the last four renewals of the traditional Festival curtain-raiser with Champagne Fever, Vautour and Douvan. Mullins also saddled last year’s favourite Min, who was runner-up to the Nicky Henderson-trained Altior.

This year’s Closutton team is headed by Melon, who justified the hype with an impressive hurdling debut at Leopardstown last weekend to move to the head of ante-post lists.

Other possible runners for Mullins include unbeaten mare Airlie Beach, Future Champion Novice Hurdle winner Saturnas, Bunk Off Early, Chateau Conti and Cilaos Emery.

Heading the English challenge is David Pipe’s Moon Racer. The eight-year-old won the Champion Bumper two years ago and is two from two over hurdles, most recently landing a Supreme Trial over the course and distance at Cheltenham in November.

Henderson’s eight contenders include the JP McManus-owned pair of Charli Parcs and Consul De Thaix, as well as eye-catching novices’ hurdles victors Beyond Conceit and River Wylde.

Henderson’s former assistant Ben Pauling is set to have his first Supreme Novices’ Hurdle runner in High Bridge.

The six-year-old finished sixth in the 2016 Champion Bumper for the now-retired trainer John Ferguson and is unbeaten in two starts for his new stable.

Fantastic form

“High Bridge is in fantastic form at the moment,” Pauling said. “All being well, he will go to Newbury on February 11th, and providing he comes through that with flying colours, will head to Cheltenham.

“He has entries in the Supreme and the Neptune, but at this stage I would say the Supreme is more likely. He doesn’t look short of speed for two miles.”

Harry Fry’s Neon Wolf and the Colin Tizzard-trained Finian’s Oscar are also in the mix for the Supreme.

Gordon Elliott’s Death Duty casts a large shadow over the other 102 entries for the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham on March 17th.

The six-year-old has progressed through the ranks this season, winning all four of his outings over hurdles, stepping up in class each time and culminating in a Grade One win at Naas.

He is one of 10 entries for Elliott in a race he came close to winning last year with Fagan.

Wholestone has been a Cheltenham regular this season and is likely to be back again for Nigel Twiston-Davies and he could meet his old foe West Approach, trained by Colin Tizzard.

Let’s Dance is a possible for Willie Mullins who also has the likes of Invitation Only and Penhill engaged.

Constantine Bay and No Hassle Hoff, who fought out the finish to the River Don at Doncaster, could meet again with former classy Flat performer Windshear also given the option by new trainer Sophie Leach.

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