Mullins: Sir Des at home in Cheltenham

Trainer Willie Mullins believes Sir Des Champs’ love of Cheltenham will stand him in good stead when he runs in the Betfred Gold Cup next month.

Mullins: Sir Des at home in Cheltenham

Sir Des Champs has a 100% record at the Prestbury Park track with victories at the last two Festivals in the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle in 2011 and the Jewson Novices’ Chase last season.

The Gigginstown House Stud-owned gelding enhanced his claims for Gold Cup glory when getting the better of Flemenstar in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Leopardstown earlier this month.

“He worked on Saturday and worked well. Emmet Mullins rode him. He normally rides him in all his fast work,” Mullins told At The Races.

“The one good thing about Sir Des Champs is that he’s going back to a track that he loves – horses and courses and all that sort of thing.”

Philip Hobbs believes Captain Chris is good each-way value for the Gold Cup.

Winner of the Amlin 1965 Chase at Ascot in November, Captain Chris was only beaten a neck by Long Run in the King George VI Chase at Kempton and was second to Cue Card in the Betfair Ascot Chase, despite a bad mistake at the second-last.

“I think Captain Chris would have an each-way chance. He’s a very big price at 20-1,” the Minehead handler told At The Races.

“He would be suited by good ground if we get it.”

Meanwhile, Nigel Twiston-Davies is aiming to complete Imperial Commander’s serious preparation for the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup with a racecourse gallop this weekend.

The 2010 winner is a frequent visitor to tracks away from competitive action and his trainer remains confident that despite reaching the venerable age of 12, he can still give his younger opponents a run for their money.

The course specialist has been dogged by injury since his prestigious success and was pulled up lame when attempting to defend his title a year later.

Returning to action for the first time since the 2011 mishap in January’s Argento Chase, Imperial Commander was involved in a thrilling battle with Cape Tribulation and only just came off second best.

The returning hero appeared in decent nick when cantering up the trainer’s gallops at Grange Hill Farm in Naunton on Monday.

Twiston-Davies said: “I was hoping to take him to Newbury on Saturday but they won’t let us.

“They want us to go on Sunday, and if I can’t find anywhere on Saturday or this week then we may go on the Sunday.”

Reflecting on the Argento run, he said: “It was astonishingly good.

“If you’d offered me that second, I’d have been delighted as he’d had such a bad run up to it.

“He’d fractured the splint bone, he’d been swimming a lot but only had four weeks cantering and maybe that’s not really enough.

“He doesn’t seem an awful lot worse than he was three years ago.”

The Welshman would never claim to be a form specialist and worries little about the claims of Imperial Commander.

Neither is he a subscriber to the ’bounce factor’, where horses returning from a long absence can run well on their reappearance, only to disappoint next time.

“I thought that was when you come back very quick,” he said.

“This is six weeks, so we’re not coming back very quick.

“We let him down a bit, he didn’t do anything the week after, and we’ve brought him back very gently. I can’t see that.”

More in this section

Join us for a special evening of Cheltenham chat on Friday March 12 at 6.30pm with racing legend and Irish Examiner columnist Ruby Walsh, Irish Examiner racing correspondent Tommy Lyons, and former champion jockey and tv presenter Mick Fitzgerald, author of Better than Sex.

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