Mullins’ main hopes on top of their game

WILLIE MULLINS has declared his chief Cheltenham hopes to be on top of their game with less than two weeks to go before the Festival.

Mullins, who is 10-1 with Ladbrokes to be crowned top trainer at Cheltenham, has an ominously strong string heading to Prestbury Park this year with the likes of Hedgehunter, Missed That and Our Ben set to take their chance.

Although Hedgehunter is still not a definite runner in the totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup, the Carlow handler expects his 2005 Grand National hero to run Beef Or Salmon closer than when they last met in the Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup at Leopardstown.

He said: “We’ve got to decide to run first but he’ll handle the ground and handle the track and the extra quarter of a mile will also be a help to us.

“There’s a lot more horses than Beef Or Salmon in the race, but if he (Beef Or Salmon) goes there in the form he was in at Leopardstown, he’ll be difficult to beat.

“I think if everything goes right and Hedgehunter runs, we certainly won’t be out of the picture coming up the hill - God knows what will happen after that.”

Mullins also reported last season’s Weatherbys Champion Bumper winner Missed That to be in rude health ahead of a tilt at the Irish Independent Arkle Challenge Trophy.

“It takes him a while to get going but he’s jumped really well in the last mile of his last two races,” he continued.

“He showed his liking for the track last year.

“And, provided he settles into jumping early in the race, I think he must have a hell of a chance.”

Talented gelding Our Ben, third in Dr PJ Moriarty Novice Chase at Leopardstown last time out, is on course to take his chance in the Royal & SunAlliance Chase.

“He finished very well in the SunAlliance Hurdle last year (third behind No Refuge) and just looking at the tape the other day, I couldn’t believe where he was at the last and where he was at the line,” said Mullins.

“If he can reproduce that sort of finishing power, he must be in with a good chance - he seems a good jumper.”

Mullins is leaning towards giving Quatre Heures the chance to shine in the Anglo Irish Bank Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.

The four-year-old sluiced to victory on his last two starts over timber and is also entered in the JCB Triumph Hurdle.

“He’s good enough to take his chance in either races but at the moment, we’ll let him go for the Supreme Novices Hurdle,” explained the trainer.

“He’s only a four-year-old and I wouldn’t like to run him in both races.

“We could change our mind depending on what happens if Mister Height didn’t run - a lot could happen between now and Cheltenham.”

On the latter, who is also entered in the Supreme Novices’ and the Triumph Hurdle, Mullins warned his rivals that Mister Hight has the scope for even more progress at the Festival.

“He’s a good jumper and we are very impressed with him,” Mullins told At The Races.

“There’s probably a bit more improvement left in him yet where Quatre Heures is probably as fit as he can be.

“His best performances on the Flat have been on soft ground, but he would run OK on good ground if it came up fast at Cheltenham.”

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