Champion trainer Willie Mullins brings an incredibly strong team of runners to the Punchestown NH Festival this week.
Mullins is hoping to be named top festival trainer for the 11th year in a row - and last year won a record 15 races at the festival - ten of those Grade One winners.
Punchestown offers Willie a quick opportunity to get over the disappointment of narrowly losing out to Paul Nicholls at the weekend in the race to be crowned British champion trainer and be the first Irish man since Vincent O’Brien in 1954 to claim the title.
Many of Willie’s horses in Punchestown travelled to Aintree recently, yet it’s not a concern for the champion trainer.
“It’s a little tight alright but there’s nice ground and the horses have recovered well,” he said.
“We’ll have a very strong team at Punchestown - Annie Power, Thousand Stars, Limini, Apple’s Jade - a new star. And the attractive prize money will mean a lot more English horses coming over as well.”
Add to that the late addition of Vroum Vroum Mag, who was withdrawn from Sandown and now travels to Punchestown.
Also, good news for racing fans is that Ruby Walsh will be fully recovered from a fractured wrist and will be teaming up with Willie once again. Ruby holds a ten-win lead over the chasing Brian Cooper in the jockey championship.
The first hope for success for Willie is Yorkhill on Tuesday - likely to be ridden by Grand National winning jockey, David Mullins - Willie’s nephew.
Willie went through the race card for the week, picking out some of his fancied horses from his stables - and some who may pose serious threats.
Interesting to note the running of Uncle Junior on Thursday in the fourmiler - this 15-year-old will retire after this run and all at Closutton hope this lovely horse finishes on a high.
The following are Willie Mullins' tips for horses to look out for during the Punchestown Festival:
Herald Champion Novice Hurdle - Yorkhill.
Boyle Sports Champion Steeplechase - Vautour with danger from Gods Own and Simonsig.
Growise Champion Novice Chase - Outlander.
Louis Fitzgerald Hotel Hurlde - Bello Conti. Petit Mouchoir is also fancied.
Irish Daily Mirror Novice Hurdle - Bellshill with danger from English horses Bigbadjohn and O O Seven.
Bibby Financial Services Gold Cup - Don Poli and Djackadam with danger from Cue Card.
Attheraces.com Champion INH Flat Race Bumper - Bacardys and BattleFord. Coeur Blimey and Moonracer will make this a competitive race.
GuinnessHandicap Steeple Chase - Turban and Tennis Cap.
Weatherbys European Breeders Fund Mares - Augusta Kate is one to watch here, with threat from Dixi Lee and The Nipper - a really good mare.
FBD Cross Country Steeple Chase - Uncle Junior
Ladbrokes Stayers Hurdles - Nicolls Canyon, Thousand Stars and Shanes Hill with Alpha Des Obeaux and Thislecrack also real threats.
Ryanair Novice SteepleChase - Douvan.
Setanta Sports Mares Novice Hurdle - Ria D’Etel and Missy Tata.
ES Copiers Novice Handicap Steeplechase - Avant Tout and Pleasant Company.
BetChampion Hurdle - Annie Power, Nicolls Canyon, Sempre Medici with Identity Thief a threat.
Tattersals Champion Novice Hurdle - Petit Mouchoir and Footpad.
Ir. Stallion Farms EBF Mares Champion Hurdle - Limini.
AES Champion 4 year old Hurdle - Apple’s Jade, Coral Handicap Hurdle, Clondaw Warrior.