Mullins delighted with festival team

WILLIE Mullins is thrilled with the condition of his Cheltenham Festival team after a large number enjoyed a schooling session at Naas on Tuesday.

The champion trainer is preparing a typically strong raiding party for the Prestbury Park bonanza with Cheltenham Gold Cup contender Cooldine and defending David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle winner Quevega two of his more high-profile challengers.

Speaking on his weekly diary on www.hri.ie, Mullins said: “On Tuesday I brought a bunch to school at Naas, comprising Cooldine, Golden Silver and four novice chasers.

“Paul Townend rode Cooldine upsides Katie Walsh on Golden Silver, while the novices followed behind.

“Ruby Walsh rode Sports Line, Emmett Mullins rode Quiscover Fontaine, David Casey rode Shakervilz, while I drafted in ’Slippers’ Madden for The Midnight Club.

“It was an excellent session by all concerned, so I couldn’t be happier with where we are at – the anticipation levels are good!

“The thrust of our challenge next week will, I suppose, revolve around Quevega in the Mares’ Hurdle on Tuesday, Cooldine in the Gold Cup on Friday, as well as the various novices.

“I have been delighted with the way Quevega has answered every question asked of her and the fact that she hasn’t run since May doesn’t concern me.”

The news broke earlier in the week that Uimhiraceathair would miss the RSA Chase because of injury but Mullins may still be represented in the race by Citizen Vic.

“Citizen Vic may now replace Uimhiraceathair in the RSA Chase,” Mullins added.

“He is settling better with every race so I don’t think the extended trip will be a problem, but we’ll dwell on it some more over the weekend before making a decision either late on Saturday or early Sunday.”

One of Mullins’ Champion Bumper contenders Lios A Choill will also not be making the trip and instead runs at Limerick this Sunday.

Meanwhile Nicky Henderson has confirmed that Binocular will run in the Smurfit Kappa Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham on Tuesday.

Third in the race last year, there had been a doubt about the participation of JP McManus’ six-year-old for some time following a couple of below-par efforts this season.

Indeed, he had initially been ruled out of the race by Henderson on February 17 after suffering a muscle problem. But following a pleasing schooling session on Wednesday, he came through a gallop yesterday morning with flying colours.

The recent Sandown scorer will be ridden by Tony McCoy.

Binocular will add a third string to the Champion Hurdle bow of the Seven Barrows handler, who will also be represented by the Barry Geraghty-ridden Punjabi and Zaynar, the mount of Andrew Tinkler.

“We have decided Binocular will run in the Champion Hurdle,” said Henderson.

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