Willie Mullins has a strong team for the Punchestown Festival
Hurricane Fly is once again the star name in Willie Mullins's strong team for the Punchestown Festival.
Last Updated: 15/04/14 2:38pm
The remarkable 10-year-old, who boasts a record 19 Grade One victories, is on course for the Racing Post Champion Hurdle, which he has won for the last four seasons, on May 2.
Opposition is likely to include Jezki, who had him back in fourth place when lifting the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham. Hurricane Fly, who also won the Evening Herald Champion Novice Hurdle in 2009, could be joined by his unbeaten stablemate Un De Sceaux.
"Hurricane Fly will run in the Racing Post Champion Hurdle and he is in good shape," said Mullins. "I'm not certain where we will go next with Un De Sceaux - if he goes to Punchestown, he will run in the Champion Hurdle as well."
Another superstar aiming for a Punchestown five-timer is Quevega, in the Ladbrokes World Series Hurdle on May 1 after she lifted the David Nicholson Mares' Hurdle at Cheltenham for the sixth year running.
"Although Quevega is in the Irish Stallion Farms European Breeders' Fund Mares Champion Hurdle on the Festival's final day, she normally goes for the stayers' race, the Ladbrokes World Series Hurdle, and we would love to win it again with her for a fifth consecutive time this year," said Mullins.
The County Carlow trainer's powerful team at the five-day feast includes a possible three-pronged attack with On His Own, Boston Bob and Prince De Beauchene, on the Bibby Financial Services Ireland Punchestown Gold Cup on April 30, a race he won last year with Sir Des Champs and in 2002 with Florida Pearl.
"Boston Bob has come out of his Melling Chase win in good shape and he will more than likely run in the Punchestown Gold Cup where he could take on his stablemates Prince De Beauchene and On His Own," said Mullins.
"We are hopeful that On His Own can gain compensation in the race for his short-head second in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. He ran a cracker there, is in excellent shape and we are really looking forward to running him at Punchestown."
The mare Annie Power, whose only defeat came when second in the Ladbrokes World Hurdle at Cheltenham, has a number of different entries and Mullins is biding his time before deciding her Punchestown target.
"Annie Power is entered in the Racing Post Champion Hurdle, the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares Champion Hurdle and the Ladbroke World Series Hurdle and we will have a look at the entries closer to the time. She came out of Cheltenham well and is in good form again going into Punchestown," he said.
Glens Melody, runner-up to Quevega at Cheltenham, is to bid to win the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares Champion Hurdle on May 3 while Champagne Fever, second in the Arkle Trophy is to step up in trip for the Growise Champion Novice Chase on April 29.
"Champagne Fever ran his heart out in Cheltenham only to go down by a head on the line. He has emerged from the Arkle in good shape and he is in all the novice races at Punchestown," said Mullins.
"It is possible he might run in one of the longer races so the Growise Champion Novice Chase is looking a likely target at this stage. We'll probably have a good crew in that race and it's possible that Djakadam, who like Champagne Fever is also owned by the Riccis, will take him on."
Mullins could also dominate the novice events with Supreme Novices' Hurdle winner Vautour heading for Herald Champion Novice Hurdle on April 29, Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle victor Faugheen going for the Tattersalls Ireland Champion Novice Hurdle on May 2 and Don Poli, winner of the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle, targeting the Irish Daily Mirror Novice Hurdle on April 30.
"Vautour came out of Cheltenham in great shape and we are looking forward to running him back at Punchestown, where he won a Grade Two earlier in the season," said Mullins.
"Don Poli is entered in both the Tattersalls Ireland Champion Novice Hurdle and the Irish Daily Mirror Novice Hurdle but the chances are that he will run in the latter race over three miles on the Wednesday. He is very, very well in himself right now.
"Faugheen is another horse who has come back from Cheltenham in good shape and he also holds entries in the Tattersalls Ireland Champion Novice Hurdle and the Irish Daily Mirror Novice Hurdle but at the moment, I would say the former race would look a good target for him on the Friday over two and a half miles."