Willie Mullins today confirmed that Florida Pearl has emerged fit and well from his historic victory at Leopardstown yesterday and will now bid to win the Tote Cheltenham Gold Cup at the fourth attempt.
The 12-year-old won the Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup for a record fourth time, but has yet to capture chasing’s blue riband event.
He has had three tries, finishing third to See More Business in 1999, runner-up to Looks Like Trouble the following year and unplaced behind Best Mate two years ago.
“The extra two furlongs of the Gold Cup have just been a bit too much for Florida Pearl, but we’ll be there and we’ll give it a shot,” trainer Mullins told attheraces today.
Florida Pearl has won both his starts this winter after failing to score last campaign – his only winless season.
Mullins explained why a lot of his string were out of sorts last season.
The Co Carlow trainer said: “It was a funny year for us. We changed our feed three or four times and then we had a virus in the yard November, December time.
“Things didn’t come together until the spring, but a lot of things weren’t right with a lot of the horses.
"That’s all behind us this year.
“Everything’s great with Florida Pearl. He pulled out of his box well this morning.”
Florida Pearl first came to prominence when winning the Weatherbys Champion Bumper at Cheltenham in 1997 and Mullins aims to have a strong hand in next month’s renewal of that race, headed by Templelusk and Major Vernon.
“Templelusk won very easily at Punchestown in December, but the race is not working out well – I think only one winner has come out of that race,” he said.
“Major Vernon always showed us plenty at home and he won very easily last Sunday at Thurles.
“And I think Malahide Marina that won the bumper at Leopardstown yesterday will take his chance.
"He is by Teenoso and from the same family as Florida Pearl.
“I have a couple of fillies who will get entries but they have been hard to train. I have one or two more to come out before the end of the month and they, too, could take their chance if they run well.”
Mullins had news of Cheltenham plans for his other runners at Leopardstown yesterday.
He said: “The ground will probably be too good for Mossy Green, who was second to Pizarro yesterday, when he gets to Cheltenham. He finished unplaced in the SunAlliance Hurdle last year. It might be too fast for him. He’s a soft-ground horse.
“Boneyarrow, who was fourth to Pizarro, might go for the four-mile chase at Cheltenham. Quel Doun, who led going down the last and completely missed it when third in his race yesterday, may go for the Triumph Hurdle.”