Willie Mullins to unleash big guns at Aintree in bid to catch Nicholls

Willie Mullins’ assault on a first British trainers’ championship has gathered pace after the powerhouse Irish trainer earmarked a number of his Cheltenham superstars for the Crabbie’s Grand National meeting at Aintree next week.
Willie Mullins to unleash big guns at Aintree in bid to catch Nicholls

Champion Hurdle winner Annie Power is set for the Doom Bar Aintree Hurdle on the opening afternoon, along with Nichols Canyon, while Gold Cup third Don Poli is heading for the Betfred Bowl on the same card.

Ryanair Chase victor Vautour is in line for the Melling Chase 24 hours later, with brilliant Arkle Trophy hero Douvan pencilled in for the Doom Bar Maghull Novices’ Chase on National day.

Mullins, who trails Paul Nicholls in the title race by just over £150,000 (€191,000), said: “We will be bringing a lot of our horses to Aintree, and I just hope we get a bit of rain before then.

"Annie Power and Nichols Canyon both appear to be in good form and could run in the Aintree Hurdle.

“Vautour may go for the two-and-a-half-mile race and Don Poli over three miles and one. Black Hercules will be entered, Douvan could go there.

"They have all had it easy since Cheltenham.”

But one horse not making the journey to Liverpool is Supreme Novices’ Hurdle runner-up Min, with Mullins ruling him out for the rest of the campaign.

He said: “One horse that won’t be going is Min. He hasn’t come out of Cheltenham well and he won’t run for the rest of the season.

“It will be hard to catch Paul Nicholls but we’ll give it a go!”

Annie Power looks to be on another collision course with My Tent Or Yours after Nicky Henderson revealed the Champion Hurdle runner-up could step up to two and a half miles for the first time in his career on Thursday week.

The nine-year-old returned from a near two-year absence to run a fantastic race in the two-mile showpiece on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival, finding only Annie Power too strong.

Henderson said: “We were thrilled to bits with how he ran. He settled very well, which was great, as he has been renowned for pulling very hard.

“You could wait for Punchestown, or come into Aintree. Again, Annie Power is going to be there (Aintree).

“It is just three weeks after Cheltenham, which was his first run for two years, so you do walk into this dreaded ‘bounce’ factor.

"I want to talk to Barry (Geraghty) and AP (McCoy) and see whether if he’s in the mode he’s in at the moment, which is quite relaxed, will he go to sleep over two and a half miles?

“He was pretty good at Cheltenham. We had some pretty novel contraptions on and they seem to be working.

“If they are happy for him to go two and a half, I think that’s the most likely scenario.”

My Tent Or Yours is set to spearhead a strong Seven Barrows team at Aintree, despite confirmation Sprinter Sacre will not be in attendance following his emotional second triumph in the Queen Mother Champion Chase.

Supreme Novices’ Hurdle hero Altior appears bound for Liverpool, as does his stable companion and Supreme third, Buveur D’Air.

“I think it’s almost certainly Aintree or nothing for Altior,” Henderson said.

“He’s great and has come out of Cheltenham very well. I think he did prove he’s a very good novice who has got his whole life still in front of him.

"We haven’t even begun yet, so there’s an awful lot to look forward to.

“That doesn’t mean he won’t run again this season — another run isn’t going to do him any harm. We’ll see how he is over the coming weekend and then make a decision about Aintree.

“I would think Buveur D’Air will almost certainly go to Aintree over two and a half. He has an enormous future over hurdles and particularly over fences.”

The bet365 Celebration Chase at Sandown on April 23 remains under consideration for Sprinter Sacre.

“He’s in great form and came back from Cheltenham really good,” said Henderson.

“He’s not going to Aintree. I think the clue to him at the moment is having him as fresh as he can be.

“He likes to be that way and I don’t think it’s going to be regular racing.”

Henderson’s 2013 Arkle hero Simonsig could make his first competitive appearance since November in Saturday’s Liz Adam Memorial Chase at Kelso.

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