Willie Mullins is as short as 1/33 to be top trainer at the Cheltenham Festival after last year, but backing him to have six or less winners looks value.
All the talk heading into the 2016 Cheltenham Festival is how many winners will be trained by all-conquering Willie Mullins, with bookies fearing the worst after last year’s total domination.
The County Carlow handler broke all the records at last year’s Festival when saddling eight winners of the 27 races.
He also managed four seconds and five thirds and, had Faugheen assured the lead home, a 1-2-3 in the Champion Hurdle.
Had Annie Power not crashed out at the last in the Mares’ Hurdle when having the race at her mercy, he would have bagged a remarkable nine winners.
Her fall saved the booking industry millions in multiple bets placed on Mullins hot-pots on the opening day, and there is every chance that he will get off to a flyer once again.
Racing’s master of Closutton has 10 favourites in the ante post markets for this year’s four-day spectacular, and the hottest of those run on the first day (March 15th).
The Rich Ricci owned quarter of Min (13/8 with Sky Bet, Supreme Novices’ Hurdle), Douvan (8/15 with Marathon, Arkle), Faugheen (2/5 with Paddy Power, Champion Hurdle) and Annie Power (8/11 with Sporting Bet, Mares’ Hurdle) are all considered bankers by many.
Black Hercules is also a solid 4/1 market leader with bet365 in the National Hunt Chase, and should all five go in, then the 5/4 on offer with Ladbrokes about 7-9 Mullins trained winners would definitely be on.
Indeed it is not impossible that he could train 10-plus, a top priced 11/4 with Coral.
Un De Sceaux (5/6 with Marathon, Queen Mother Champion Chase) and Limini (evens with bet365, Mares’ Novice Hurdle) look sure to take the world of beating, and Mullins also has a strong hand in the Gold Cup with Djakdam, Don Poli and Vautour – not to mention a good record in handicaps and the Champion Bumper.
However, in reality, matching or bettering last year’s tally is going to be very hard to achieve given the competitiveness of the racing and cases can be made to take on many of the Mullins hot-pots.
The home team also have some very strong contenders with arguably better form in the book, and taking everything into account I think that the 9/4 on offer about Mullins training six or less winners is the value call.
BOOKIES BEST BET: Black Hercules 4/1 with bet365 to win National Hunt Chase.