Willie Mullins outlines powerful possible squad for Punchestown
Willie Mullins is looking forward to launching another strong assault on the Punchestown Festival after entries for the first three days of the showpiece meeting were confirmed.
The master of Closutton's immediate thoughts might be focussed on his attempt to be crowned British champion trainer for the first time at Sandown on Saturday, but he is also preparing a formidable team for the five-day Festival next week.
Mullins won 16 of the 37 races at last year's fixture and is hopeful he can be leading trainer at the meeting for the 14th time in 16 years.
He said: "The Punchestown Festival has been a happy hunting ground for us in the past and it produces some memorable races every year. It's a great opportunity for the public to see the cream of the crop from Cheltenham and Aintree go head-to-head on Irish soil.
"Punchestown always produce lovely, safe ground for the end of the season and the prize money is top-class, hence we always try to send as good a team as we can assemble each year."
The headline act on Tuesday's opening card is the BoyleSports Champion Chase. Mullins has four entries at this stage, but with Un De Sceaux bound for this weekend's Celebration Chase and Vautour and Vroum Vroum Mag also pencilled in for Sandown, he could rely on Twinlight.
"Twinlight is very well and will definitely run - it will be his fifth run at the Punchestown Festival," said Mullins.
Nicky Henderson has left in Sprinter Sacre and Simonsig, although like Un De Sceaux, the former is Sandown-bound. Other contenders include Special Tiara, Flemenstar and Top Gamble.
Mullins is responsible for eight of the 16 entries in Tuesday's Herald Champion Novice Hurdle, a race in which Cheltenham and Aintree hero Yorkhill is set to take his chance.
Mullins said: "Yorkhill would look to be my best chance in this race. He seems fine after what might have appeared to have been a hard race at Aintree, and he'll head my team. We have a number of others engaged but he's the number one."
The third and final Grade One on the opening day is the Growise Champion Novice Chase. Mouse Morris has entered Grand National hero Rule The World, while Mullins can pick from five.
"Outlander will probably run in the Growise Champion Novice Chase. He could well be joined by Roi Des Francs. Shaneshill is not out of it either but it depends whether we decide to stick to hurdles with him or go back over fences," said Mullins.