Willie Mullins will once again be the toast of punters if Appreciate It can add to the yard’s record six victories in the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham.
It is 26 years since Tourist Attraction provided the most successful trainer in Festival history with his very first victory at the showpiece meeting in the traditional curtain-raiser.
Ebaziyan was a shock winner for the master of Closutton in 2007, but Champagne Fever (2013), Vautour (2014), Douvan (2015) and Klassical Dream (2019) have all been well fancied and come up with the goods since.
Appreciate It, runner-up to stablemate Ferny Hollow in the Champion Bumper 12 months ago, is the latest product of the Mullins machine to bid for Supreme glory.
The champion trainer admits he expected to be running the seven-year-old in one of the longer Cheltenham novice hurdles at the start of the campaign, but he has more then earned his place in the two-mile opener with successive Grade Ones over that trip at Leopardstown.
Mullins said: “I had him down as a stayer, so the fact that he has that turn of foot is good too.
“What he did at Christmas was terrific, and I’m wondering whether he was as good in himself at the Dublin Racing Festival last month, or was it a better race?
“He did what he had to when he had to, and we all thought he was in trouble turning for home, but when Ballyadam came to him he got the job done – which was the sign of a good horse – and he’s been in great form since.”
Mullins also saddles Blue Lord, who finished six lengths behind his stablemate when third in last month’s Chanelle Pharma Novice Hurdle – while the runner-up Ballyadam is in opposition again, having moved from Gordon Elliott’s yard to Henry de Bromhead.
The chief hope for the home team is Harry’s Fry’s Metier, who is unbeaten in three starts and could hardly have been more impressive when trouncing his rivals by 12 lengths in the Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown on his latest appearance.
“There’s only eight runners, but all the main contenders are there,” said Fry.
“We’re all systems go at our end. We’re really pleased with him at home – he’s fresh and well and goes there all guns blazing.
“He’s been very progressive. He’ll need to progress again, but there’s no reason why he can’t.
“This will be the best ground he’s run on over hurdles, but he’s got Flat form on better ground, so I’m not overly concerned.
“He’ll either be good enough or he won’t – and I don’t think the ground will be an excuse, hopefully.”
Jonjo O’Neill’s Soaring Glory brings top-class handicap form to the table after landing last month’s Betfair Hurdle at Newbury.
De Bromhead’s second string Irascible, the Alex Hales-trained For Pleasure and Grumpy Charley from Chris Honour’s yard complete the field.