Willie Mullins’s dominance affecting ante-post markets
Punters reluctant to take on champion trainer’s 11 Cheltenham Festival favourites
Henry De Bromhead: keeping Identity Thief fresh for a tilt at Faugheen in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho
The impact of Willie Mullins’s dominance is a regular racing debate but bookmakers appear to believe it will certainly be a negative in terms of their likely turnover at Cheltenham in March.
Mullins set a new standard at the 2015 festival with a record eight winners but one firm reckon it is just 13-8 about Ireland’s champion trainer saddling ten or more winners this March and his big-race dominance is already having an impact on ante-post betting with seven weeks to go.
“Never before has one trainer dominated all the conversations and all the betting activity in the build up to the Cheltenham Festival to the extent that Willie Mullins is doing right now. Every bet we are striking is on him or his horses and in many of the races ante post interest has stagnated due to the stranglehold his horses have on the markets,” the Coral spokesman, Simon Clare, said.
Mullins currently has 11 ante-post favourites for the 28-race festival, including the odds-on hotpots Faugheen (Champion Hurdle,) Un De Sceaux (Champion Chase,) and Douvan (Arkle) as well as the Cheltenham Gold Cup market leader Djakadam who will reappear at Cheltenham this Saturday.
Limini is another Mullins ante-post favourite for the newly-installed Trull House Mares Novice Hurdle and her stable companion, Myska, is second favourite for the Day 3 festival finale. Both mares are among 11 entries left in this Saturday’s Grade Three Coolmore Novice Hurdle at Fairyhouse.
However Ireland’s weekend feature will be Sunday’s Grade Two Boylesports Tied Cottage Chase where a trio of Mullins entries led by Felix Yonger could take on the popular Flemenstar in the €42,500 two-mile highlight.
Myska holds another entry in Sunday’s Listed Novice Hurdle at Punchestown, a race that could see a clash between Gordon Elliott’s highly-rated Tombstone and Supasundae, an impressive maiden scorer at Leopardstown over Christmas.
Morning Run is one of the comparative lesser lights among the Mullins contenders for Cheltenham’s Grade One mares hurdle at the festival but she is likely to get a cross-channel ‘sighter’ this Saturday at Doncaster.
“I’ve entered three in the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle at Doncaster on Saturday. Morning Run, who will definitely come over and Petite Parisienne and Whiteout, who I’ll decide on later in the week,” said Mullins.
He has a couple of other Grade Two options at Doncaster with Shaneshill one of three novice chase entries, and Up For Review leading a Closutton quartet in the three-mile Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle.
Henry Howard is one of a Mullins trio going to Thurles today and is notable for being an eight year old having his first start in a maiden hurdle where he takes on the 118-rated Blessed King.
The Gigginstown Stud -owned pair of Sutton Place and Berry Des Aulmes look to hold more obvious claims in their respective races with the latter up against Stuccodor who is on a seventh try at breaking his duck over flights.
Edvardo was going further away at the end when winning at Navan on Saturday and should relish the extra trip under a 4lb penalty in his latest handicap assignment.
In other festival news, Identity Thief remains on track to the take on Faugheen & Co in the Champion Hurdle with trainer Henry De Bromhead happy to have missed out on taking on the powerful Mullins team at Leopardstown last weekend.
“I’m very happy we missed that. He’d had three runs already and had a pretty hard race the last day, so we backed off him and he seems in really good form. We’re aiming straight to the Champion Hurdle. Probably his best form is on better ground and it was pretty testing in Leopardstown.”