Willie Mullins is set to field two of his big guns in an attempt to win the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase for the first time, with veteran Un De Sceaux likely to join Chacun Pour Soi.
Despite being crowned champion trainer in Ireland 13 times and leading the table at the Cheltenham Festival six times, he has never won the two-mile championship chase.
However, having landed his first Gold Cup last year with Al Boum Photo, Mullins has a very strong hand in a race which could be one of the highlights of the week, with Altior and Defi Du Seuil also due to line up.
“My connections are very keen to go to the Champion Chase with Un De Sceaux. Whether he should be going for the Ryanair, I don’t know, but the Champion Chase looks the plan at the moment,” said Mullins.
“I think we got the tactics wrong in the Ryanair last year. If we run in the Champion Chase, we’ll just let him run his usual race up front.
“He still retains a huge amount of ability at his age. I’d love to see lots of rain for him – I think that will be crucial.
“I think part of the plan could be for Patrick (Mullins) to ride him. It’s probably going to be his last hurrah in Cheltenham.”
Chacun Pour Soi is the new kid on the block on the two-mile scene and after a surprise defeat at Christmas, he beat stablemate Min at the Dublin Racing Festival.
“He needed the race at Christmas and was good the last day – I think he’s improving all the time,” said Mullins.
“I’m not worried about Cheltenham for him. He seems to handle any pace and has won at different tracks. For him to take on what he took on in Punchestown last season and do what he did was fantastic.
“We just need to get him there now in good shape. The Queen Mother Champion Chase is a spectacular race. Everyone likes to knock off another achievement and it would be great to have it on the CV.”
Following that reverse at Leopardstown, Min is likely to go back up in trip.
“I’d imagine we’ll try to keep him and Chacun Pour Soi apart and run Min in the Ryanair,” said Mullins.
“I don’t think he jumped as well as he needed to in Leopardstown the last day, but he still ran a good race and I don’t think the longer trip will be any problem for him – he’s won over two and a half before.”
“I’d imagine Duc Des Genievres will run in the Ryanair as well.”
Cash Back was narrowly touched off in the Irish Arkle by Henry de Bromhead’s Notebook and Mullins wants soft ground for his attempt to turn the tables.
“He goes for the Arkle. He reminds me of Un De Sceaux – he has that same style of racing and training,” said Mullins.
“He likes to run and jump and if we get soft or heavy in the going description for him, I’ll be very pleased.
“Melon will go for the Marsh. He showed us the last day he wants a trip. While his jumping is good, it’s not sharp enough for the Arkle.
“He has good Festival form without winning – he’s been second in the Supreme and in two Champion Hurdles. Maybe we’ve just been running him over the wrong trip.”
While most of the novice chasers have multiple options, there is only one for Carefully Selected.
“We’ve been aiming him at the National Hunt Chase from a long way out,” said Mullins.
“He gallops and jumps and while he doesn’t look fast, he has more speed than it appears.
“To look at him you’d think he was a plodder – he’s not the most handsome brute in the place, but he’s a good horse.”
Ground conditions are likely to dictate whether Easy Game runs in the Marsh Novices’ Chase or the RSA, while Mullins is favouring the latter event for Allaho.
He said: “I was talking to Cheveley Park the other day and the RSA is the probable race for him. He’s light on experience, but he gallops and jumps.
“We’ll see how he works between now and then. He could go back for the Marsh, but at the moment I’m aiming at the RSA.”