Top Irish trainer Willie Mullins will head into the 2024 Cheltenham Festival with an excellent chance of recording his 100th winner at the meeting.
Galopin Des Champs’ success in this year’s Gold Cup was Mullins’ 94th Festival success, putting him tantalisingly close to bringing up the century.
He will have a strong crop of hurdlers at his disposal next year, many of whom are prominent in the latest Cheltenham odds on leading betting sites.
With that in mind, we have scoured the ante-post markets to come up with four hurdlers we believe could help Mullins edge closer to the 100-winner mark.
Ballyburn – Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle
Two eye-catching bumper victories at Punchestown earlier this year sparked plenty of talk about Ballyburn being a future Cheltenham Festival winner.
He has already been well-backed for the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle, with his odds slashed from 25/1 to 12/1 in recent weeks.
Mullins has won Albert Bartlett on three previous occasions with Penhill (2017), Monkfish (2020) and The Nice Guy (2022).
Ballyburn’s co-owner Ronnie Bartlett sponsors the race, which increases the chances of the horse lining up in the event in March.
Aurora Vega – Mares’ Novices Hurdle
Mullins enjoyed plenty of success with Quevega during her racing career, with the horse winning the Mares’ Hurdle six years in a row from 2009-2014.
She has since given birth to several talented horses including Facile Vega, who won the Champion Bumper at the Festival in 2022.
His full-sister Aurora Vega looks destined to take high order among next season’s hurdlers given the way she hacked up on her recent debut in a Sligo bumper.
She is currently priced at 14/1 for the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle and that looks exceptional value given her family connections.
Lossiemouth – Champion Hurdle
Lossiemouth was an impressive winner of this year’s Triumph Hurdle before following up in the equivalent event at the Punchestown Festival.
While she is currently the ante-post favourite for the Mares’ Hurdle, Mullins has hinted she could be aimed at the Champion Hurdle.
Her participation will likely be determined by Constitution Hill’s future, with trainer Nicky Henderson considering sending the reigning champion over fences.
A seven-pound weight allowance would make the Champion Hurdle a tempting proposition for Lossiemouth, and odds of around 12/1 are a fair reflection of her chances.
Tullyhill – Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle
Bought for £220,000 after winning a point-to-point at Moira, Tullyhill triumphed on her debut for Mullins in a 2m2f bumper at Gowran Park.
The horse dropped back to two miles at the Punchestown Festival and ran a fine race to finish second behind A Dream to Share in a Grade 1 bumper.
Tullyhill cruised effortlessly into contention in that race, but was outpointed in the latter stages by a horse with a slightly better turn of foot.
The 2m5f trip in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle should suit Tullyhill down to the ground and he looks well worth an interest at odds of around 12/1 to emerge victorious.