Two-day Dublin Racing Festival starts on Saturday
Willie Mullins has 7 of 10 ante-post Grade race favourites
Facile Vega, Appreciate It and Galopin Des Champs out to prove Cheltenham Festival credentials
Willie Mullins looks set to dominate this weekend's Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown according to the Betfair Sportsbook early markets with the champion Irish trainer having seven ante-post favourites for the 10 graded races.
Mullins, who won seven of the 10 graded races at the same festival last year, will have a plethora of his stable stars gunning for glory this weekend including former Supreme Novices' Hurdle winner Appreciate It, last year's Champion Bumper winner Facile Vega, and current Cheltenham Gold Cup favourite Galopin Des Champs.
Day one dominance expected
This year's Dublin Racing Festival commence on Saturday with the Nathaniel Lacy Solicitors Novice Hurdle at 13:20 where, surprisingly, Mullins doesn't have the favourite, with that honour going to the Barry Connell-trained Good Land (2/1).
In fact, you have to look to fourth favourite, Grangeclare West (5/1), to find the Mullins-trained contender, but that's probably where the respite will end for opposing trainers given the ammunition to come for Ireland's champion trainer.
Mullins has an incredible seven of the nine five-day entries for the Spring Junenile Hurdle at 13:55 including leading Triumph Hurdle hopes Lossiemouth (4/9 for Saturday's race) and Blue Destiny (9/4).
He then has five of the eight ante-post entries for the Irish Arkle Novices' Chase at 14:30 including the first two in the betting, Appreciate It (5/4) and Dysart Dynamo (15/8), though they will have to be at their best to see off the Joseph O'Brien-trained Banbridge (10/3).
Next up for Mullins is the Irish Gold Cup at 15:05 where he'll be hoping current 13/8 Cheltenham Gold Cup favourite Galopin Des Champs will prove exactly why he is the market leader for the Cheltenham Festival's blue riband race.
However, Mullins is leaving no stone unturned in his attempt to win Saturday's race as he is also likely to saddle the second and third favourites, Stattler (7/2) and Kemboy (8/1).
The final graded race on Saturday is the Future Stars National Hunt Flat Race (16:40), won last year in imperious fashion by the Willie Mullins-trained Facile Vega.
Mullins - the one we're focusing on - doesn't have the favourite this year however as it's his namesake Thomas Mullins who will saddle the 2/1 market leader Fascile Mode. Willie will pin his hopes on Chosen Witness (7/2) doing the business for him.
Saturday One to Watch: Chosen Witness - 16:40
Willie Mullins has a great affinity with the Champion Bumper. He trained and rode the winner Wither Or Which in 1996 and has since won the race a further 11 times, including the last three renewals. His representative this year is only third in the market, but the trainer's pure love for the race tells me he'll be the one to beat on the day.
Another Super Sunday on the cards
Sunday at the Dublin Racing Festival commences at 13:40 with the Ladbrokes Novices' Chase, though Mullins may have to settle for the second, third, and fourth favourites - namely James Du Berlais (10/3), El Fabiolo (4/1) and Gaillard Du Mesnil (5/1) - behind the 15/8 Gordon Elliot-trained favourite Mighty Potter.
Normal services is resumed - in terms of Mullins having the race favourite - in the Dublin Chase at 14:10 where Blue Lord is the red hot 1/3 favourite, before we move on to a mouthwatering Irish Champion Hurdle at 15:10.
Super mare Honeysuckle (7/4) will bid to get back to winning ways after losing her unbeaten tag last time out, but the market suggests she will play second fiddle again behind Evens favourite and Mullins' leading Cheltenham Champion Hurdle hope State Man.
Next up for Mullins is the 8/11 Supreme Novices' Hurdle favourite Facile Vega who is a very short-priced 2/5 favourite to win the Tattersalls Ireland Novices' Hurdle at 15:40, though he faces a potentially top class rival in the form of High Definition.
The Joseph O'Brien-trained 5yo - once an Epsom Derby ante-post favourite - beat an odds-on Mullins rival in winning his only start over hurdles recently, and is rated a 13/2 chance to lower the colours of Facile Vega on Sunday.
Finally, Mullins will saddle the 11/8 favourite Fancy Girl in the Mares' National Hunt Flat Race at 16:40 but keep an eye out for another potential Mullins stable star in the shape of Gaelic Warrior in the 16:10 Liffey Handicap Hurdle.
The 5yo is one of the ante-post market leaders for the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle at the Cheltneham Festival, and will surely have to justify his 2/1 favourite tag on Sunday if taking up that March engagement.
Sunday One to Watch: State Man - 15:10
Honeysuckle has been a wonderful servant to her connections but there was something I didn't like about her defeat on her seasonal reappearance. She had everything in her favour but finished behind two horses who have entries for the Stayers' Hurdle! Back to 2m she'll have to be at her best to beat State Man, who is a younger and more upwardly Champion Hurdle contender.