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WIllie Mullins eyes first Cheltenham Gold Cup

Bellshill ridden by David Mullins (left) jumps the last ahead of Djakadam ridden by Patrick Mullins to win the Coral Punchestown Gold Cup during day two of the Punchestown Festival 2018 at Punchestown Racecourse, County Kildare. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday April 25, 2018. See PA story RACING Punchestown. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Image: Bellshill ridden by David Mullins (left) jumps the last ahead of Djakadam

Willie Mullins ranks Bellshill and Al Boum Photo as likely Gold Cup types this term.

Bellshill was top class as a novice hurdler and scored his first Grade One success over fences when claiming the Punchestown Gold Cup in April.

Mullins now hopes he can kick on from the triumph, saying: "I am very happy with how he has come out of his summer's rest.

"He is one that I'm going to try to make a Gold Cup horse out of this year, he'll go down that route, staying chases."

Al Boum Photo is also in the mix for top staying prizes after winning the Ryanair Novices Chase at Fairyhouse last Easter.

His campaign did not end on the same kind of high note as he ran out at Punchestown, but Mullins expects further progress this term.

He said: "He improved all year. I think I will have to aim him for a Gold Cup, whether it's in Leopardstown or Cheltenham.

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"That's the route he will go down, he is a staying chaser, he has lots of ability and is improving all the time."

Pleasant Company was edged out by a head in the Grand National at Aintree last year and all roads lead back to Liverpool this year.

Mullins said: "His aim will be to go back to Aintree again this season. The whole year will be aimed around going for the Aintree National.

"I thought I had him nailed on for the Irish National last year, but Malcolm (Denmark, owner) wanted to go to Aintree, and on the evidence of last year we were so close. Hopefully this year."

Mullins also has Aintree in mind for Rathvinden, winner of the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham.

He said: "He was very good in Cheltenham. He would look to me to be a Grand National horse as well, whether it's the Irish or English. He will run in handicap chases on the way to one of the Nationals."

Yorkhill won the JLT Novices' Chase at Cheltenham in 2017 but after a couple of disappointing chase efforts last year, Mullins went back to hurdles, although he enjoyed little success.

He said: "I have to start him over fences. He had a funny year last year, nothing went right for him.

"The potential he showed this time last year, we didn't get that out of him at all. I think I'll keep him at three miles over fences.

"He jumps a bit left and we are going to have to try to control that, but maybe if he is in better form or better order this year, we might be able to manage it. We certainly were able to manage it up to last year anyway."

Total Recall snatched a last-gasp win in the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury last year before claiming a richly-endowed hurdle at Leopardstown. But after failing to make an impression at Cheltenham, Aintree or Punchestown, Mullins expects him to be up against it this campaign.

He said: "He is going to be a bit harder to place because obviously he is probably at the top of his mark. He ran very well in the Gold Cup before he came down, we thought he was going to have a first three finish maybe.

"That puts him in line for a lot of Grade Two or Grade Three races. It might be tough for him to break through to Grade One.

"There might be a good handicap in him. He is entered in the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury, but that's probably not realistic. He could possibly go for something like the Troytown or the Thyestes."

While Total Recall looks unlikely for Newbury, Punchestown novice chase winner Kemboy could be heading in that direction.

Mullins added: "We will start him off in handicaps. If I can get a run into him before the Ladbrokes Trophy I will. If he runs well there then he could make the jump up. He is certainly a horse that has improved and is still improving."

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