Cheltenham winners head formidable Mullins team for Punchestown

WILLIE Mullins’ three Cheltenham winners head the champion trainer’s formidable team at Punchestown next week.

Mikael D’Haguenet (Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle), Cooldine (RSA Chase) and Quevega (David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle) are on course to try to add to their victories at Prestbury Park.

“We are looking to run the three Cheltenham Festival winners at Punchestown. We have had lots of rain and while the weather is a bit drier now, I am hoping it will break again,” said Mullins.

“I have not made any firm decisions yet about Mikael D’Haguenet or as to which races any of my horses will be running in. I will be confirming them in their races and then wait and see what the weather does and how the horses are.

“It is far too early for me to make a definite plan just yet.”

Mikael D’Haguenet holds entries in Tuesday’s Evening Herald Champion Novice Hurdle over two miles, the two-and-a-half-mile Land Rover Champion Hurdle on Thursday and the Ladbrokes.com World Series Hurdle over three miles on Friday.

Mullins had considered pitching Cooldine in the Guinness Gold Cup over three miles and a furlong on Wednesday.

While not entirely ruling out that option, he could keep the Violet O’Leary-owned seven-year-old to novice company over the same trip.

Quevega, impressive over two and a half miles at Cheltenham, could be dropped in trip.

He said: “Cooldine will probably go for the Champion Novice Chase on Tuesday rather than the Guinness Gold Cup. That is the way I’m thinking at the minute but it could change.

“Quevega has the option of the two-mile Champion Hurdle on Friday, the three-mile World Series Hurdle.

“I will probably go for the two-mile race – bring her back in trip and see how she goes.”

Punchestown is also likely to see the return of the unbeaten Hurricane Fly.

The five-year-old has not raced since defeating Go Native in the Future Champion Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown in December.

“Hurricane Fly has an entry in the Group One Tattersalls Gold Cup on the Flat but for now he will most likely go to Punchestown for the Evening Herald Champion Novice Hurdle over two miles,” Mullins continued.

“He seems to be okay and worked well enough this morning, so I’m happy with him.”

Hurricane Fly could be joined by Cousin Vinny, successful at last year’s Punchestown Festival in the Paddy Power Champion INH Flat Race.

He was fifth to Go Native in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham and Mullins hopes he could improve on that effort.

“I am not sure if Cousin Vinny will go for the Champion Novice Hurdle or the two-and-a-half-mile Champion Hurdle,” he remarked.

“He travelled badly over to England last time and did not handle the meeting - that cost him in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.

“He was beaten before he went out at Cheltenham. I just hope that he comes back into form so we will see how he is.”

Aintree Hurdle runner-up Fiveforthree is also on target to run in the Ladbrokes.com World Series Hurdle. “I am looking at that race for Fiveforthree. I have no trouble in stepping him up to three miles,” Mullins concluded.


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