Having saddled an unparalleled 10 winners at last month's Cheltenham festival, Willie Mullins turns his focus to Punchestown next week with another record in his sights.
Last year’s festival saw Mullins secure a best-ever haul of 19 winners during the five-day finale to the Irish National Hunt season.
With most of his Cheltenham big-guns primed to reappear, the potential for him to reach 20 winners or more is reflected in ante-post betting lists.
In the dozen Grade One races up for grabs, Mullins is responsible for eight of the current favourites.
Among them is the outstanding dual-Ryanair Chase winner Allaho, who gets another chance to stretch his stamina to three miles in next week’s festival, which begins on Tuesday.
Allaho hasn’t run over three miles since finishing fourth to A Plus Tard in the 2020 Savills Chase at Leopardstown but has proved a revelation over the intermediate two and a half mile distance since.
However, with no Grade One prize at that trip in Punchestown, and Energumene and Chacun Pour Soi earmarked for the two-mile William Hill Champion Chase, Mullins is prepared to give the strapping French bred another shot at three miles in the Ladbrokes Gold Cup.
“That’s our plan at this minute. I thought, originally, he would be a stayer and he disappointed me. We thought he was a galloper,” admitted Mullins,
“We’ve come back from that and he’s hard to beat over two and a half. But he’s by No Risk At All, which means he should be going three miles or even three and a half. I think he could stay the three miles of the Punchestown race.”
The Gold Cup is the highlight of day two of next week’s festival and Allaho is likely to meet an old rival in Minella Indo as well as last year’s winner, Clan Des Obeaux.
In contrast, another Cheveley Park Stud-owned star, Sir Gerhard, is set to drop in distance and contest the Bective Stud Champion Novice Hurdle on day one of the festival.
He landed the Ballymore at Cheltenham when stretched out to an extended two and a half miles.
Mullins confirmed that other Cheltenham stars such as Facile Vega and Vauban are on course to line up at Punchestown.
“We ran a few over the weekend [at Fairyhouse] but I think, looking at the Cheltenham thing, we have a good team for Punchestown,” he said.
Mullins’s tally of 19 winners last year trumped his previous best haul of 18 which he secured three years ago.
Prior to Punchestown the emphasis is more on Flat action, although a two-day Kilbeggan fixture starts on Thursday.
There will be a trio of valuable Listed contests at Navan on Saturday where the Group One -winning mares Princess Zoe and Search For A Song could clash in the Vintage Crop Stakes.
The are the standout contenders among 14 entries left in the race after Tuesday’s latest acceptance stage.
Princess Zoe, the 2020 Prix Du Cadran winner, failed to fire in her last start in Saudi Arabia in February.
The former dual-Irish Leger heroine Search For A Song was last seen finishing fourth in the Prix Royal Oak in October.
Potential Oaks contenders could emerge from the Salsabil Stakds which has both the Weld Park winner Concert Hall and the highly rated Cairde Go Deo among 15 left in.