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Cheltenham Festival: Willie Mullins reveals all on his team, including Gold Cup favourite Galopin Des Champs!

Galopin Des Champs' sole defeat over fences came when falling at the last in last year's Cheltenham Festival and remains a red-hot favourite in the Cheltenham Gold Cup; El Fabiolo rates a leading chance in the Arkle, while Energumene is a short price for the Champion Chase

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Cheltenham Festival's winning-most trainer Willie Mullins will be hoping either Facile Vega or Il Etait Temps can get him off to a fast start in this year's Supreme Novices' Hurdle

We spoke to star Irish trainer Willie Mullins, who discussed his Cheltenham Festival contenders including Galopin Des Champs, El Fabiolo, Lossiemouth and more!

The Closutton handler has saddled a remarkable 88 Cheltenham Festival winners, with 10 of them coming at last year's meeting including State Man, Vauban and Facile Vega.

That trio all return this year with chances alongside Gold Cup favourite Galopin Des Champs, Champion Chase hope Energumene and many more - we chat to the Irish Champion Trainer about all of his main chances.

Supreme Novices' Hurdle

"Facile Vega disappointed us but I think we just got the tactics wrong at Leopardstown the last day but I think he'll be fine. We'll ride him differently next time.

"He's had a few easy days and I'm happy with how he's come out of the race."

Paul Townend smiles for the cameras after steering Facile Vega to victory at Fairyhouse
Image: Paul Townend smiles for the cameras after steering Facile Vega to victory at Fairyhouse

"Il Etait Temps jumped much better and I think he'll improve again. We've got lots of work to do with him and everything has got to go right.

"He's a real hurdling type rather than a chaser but he's always shown he has huge ability, he's just got to perfect his jumping a little bit. If you go back to his first run last year, he was very good but his jumping let him down. Once he gets that together he's going to tackle the best of them.

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"We've always thought he was a Grade One horse. They're probably the best two I've got so let's hope they get there."

Ballymore Novices' Hurdle

"Gaelic Warrior won a handicap last time and was second in the Boodles last year so we know he handles the track.

"He's improving and I think he's good enough to take his chance in the Ballymore.

Gaelic Warrior
Image: Gaelic Warrior

"Impaire Et Passe won the Moscow Flyer at Punchestown. That's normally a step to go for the Supreme but this fellow won a two-and-a-half mile race before that so he can step up to the Ballymore.

"Champ Kiely won the Lawlors of Naas which bought him his ticket to go for the Ballymore."

Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle

"Embassy Gardens looks very good for the Albert Bartlett, even though the owners sponsor the Ballymore. He looks made for the race."

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Jockey Danny Mullins admits he may have had better luck in running against Lossiemouth at Leopardstown but believes Gala Marceau is right up there in terms of talent

Triumph Hurdle

"Lossiemouth was very unlucky the last day with traffic problems. She's favourite and I think she lost nothing in defeat, except the prize money.

"Blood Destiny's win before puts him right in the picture. I didn't run him at Leopardstown as I want to keep him fresh but he's very good and goes there with a great chance.

"Gala Marceau won at Leopardstown and she is improving all the time. She's another with a good chance."

Daryl Jacob and El Fabiolo win the Irish Arkle at Leopardstown
Image: Daryl Jacob and El Fabiolo win the Irish Arkle at Leopardstown

Arkle Novices' Chase

"I've always been keen on El Fabiolo and if you go back to just his second run of his life, he ran Jonbon to within a short head at Aintree.

"No matter what happens he is right up there and it just depends which horse has improved most over the winter. Our fella appears to have come on a huge amount."

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Watch the Winter Derby live on Sky Sports Racing!

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Champion Hurdle

"I think State Man will go on any ground. Constitution Hill seems to like that faster ground so we'll have to put on a show.

"There's more in him as he's a very deep horse. I've never seen him and said: 'That's the height of his powers'.

"Constitution Hill made the running the last few times but he might change his tactics. I'm sure Paul [Townend, jockey] will have something in mind."

Paul Townend celebrated winning the Irish Champion Hurdle on State Man
Image: Paul Townend celebrated winning the Irish Champion Hurdle on State Man

Queen Mother Champion Chase

"We'll see what pitches up on the day but I think my main worry for Energumene is just getting over the first fence.

"It was new fences with new white boards at Cheltenham last time. Also, it was a different track but now that he's had a spin around there with the new fences I think he'll be a different horse. He needed the run.

"Gentleman De Mee was electric at Leopardstown and that puts him in there with a really good chance."

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Watch the latest Off The Fence episode!

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Mares' Hurdle

"I want to try and go to Punchestown with Brandy Love if I can. I know it's the wrong way round because she prefers going left-handed but I'd like to get a run into her.

"The Mares' race could be the hottest race of the Festival, with Epatante and Honeysuckle coming back. It's going to be some race!"

Stayers' Hurdle

"I wouldn't say Klassical Dream is a runner by any means but he's doing the right stuff.

"If I have to wait for Aintree or Punchestown with him then so be it. We won't rush him."

Teahupoo and Jack Kennedy (right) win the Bar One Racing Hatton's Grace Hurdle from Klassical Dream (centre) and Honeysuckle (left)
Image: Teahupoo and Jack Kennedy (right) win the Bar One Racing Hatton's Grace Hurdle from Klassical Dream (centre) and Honeysuckle (left)

Turners' Novice Chase

"I don't know what to do with Sir Gerhard yet. He's inexperienced so is he better off going for the two-and-a-half with less jumping or go three miles with more jumping but going slower?"

Mares' Chase

"Allegorie De Vassy looks to have huge talent and a clear runner will make her very competitive.

"Elimay ran a cracker the other day and I needed to get the run into her. I loved the way she travelled to turn for home. I think that'll bring her own hugely."

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Patrick Mullins is adamant the Gold Cup trip of three-miles-and-two-furlongs at Cheltenham should prove to be no issue for favourite Galopin Des Champs

Cheltenham Gold Cup

"We have Galopin Des Champs and Stattler in the Gold Cup and both have a great chance.

"Galopin Des Champs won the Irish Gold Cup and did it well. It probably wasn't as flashy as a lot of people were hoping but I don't think he needed to be. We were concentrating more on settling him and getting him to race.

"Stattler has progressed nicely from being second in Tramore with Minella Indo and put in a really good trial at Leopardstown the last day."

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Willie Mullins has two good darts to throw at this year's Cheltenham Gold Cup and also nominates his handicap dark horse for the Festival

Handicap dark horses

"I had a rather nice one at Thurles the other day with Spanish Harlem and if he's strong enough then fingers crossed he'll get in the Martin Pipe and is one to look out for.

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