Last year’s RSA Chase winner is the sole Irish hope in the festival’s blue riband event and was third favourite behind Kauto Star and Denman in the odds last night.
While impressive in his festival victory a year ago, it was an incredibly tough race that has led to doubts as to the toll it took on the now seven-year old.
“He’s grand,” said Mullins on his entry’s prospects. “He’s in good form. On the evidence of his past two seasons, every run he’s improved hand over fist. If he improves the same amount from Leopardstown to here, we’ll hopefully get in the money. It’s all to play for after that.”
Securing a spot in the winner’s enclosure would be a significant effort in itself but can he do the seemingly impossible and drive a wedge between Paul Nicholls’ pair of stablemates?
“It looks a head-to-head,” said the Carlow handler. “My fellow has a good bit to do to get in the mix with the two of those but we’re here to find that out. We would love the rain.
“I think he’ll handle the ground and the trip will bring out his stamina. He put in a fantastic round of jumping last year. If he does the same this time, that’s going to put him right in the race.”
It will be a race scrutinised like few have before – and probably ever will be again – but Mullins was unwilling to dig too deep into the intricacies of what might be expected.
“Talk to Paul (Townend, the jockey) about tactics. It won’t bother Paul. Cooldine jumps well for him and I’m happy for him to have the ride.”
Meanwhile, Paul Nicholls separated himself from celebrating Big Buck’s’ win to look forward to today’s main event and suggested that rumours of Denman’s demise may have been exaggerated.
“Kauto Star is amazing and keeps coming back. Denman had a setback at Newbury last time but he did a hard piece of work this morning as he always does the day before the Gold Cup.
“Kauto Star will love this ground and Denman has good enough form on the ground too. Denman has had a breathing operation and I think Paul Barber and Harry Findlay are wrong to say he wants heavy ground. “Denman is a different horse to 12 months ago. He will look a lot tighter when you see him in the parade ring.”
By then, the time for speculation will almost be over.