Exploring Willie Mullins’ dark horses at the 2024 Cheltenham Festival

This year's renewal of Britain's most valuable handicap hurdle also has a copybook dark horse at the top of the betting in Willie Mullins's review

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When it comes to the Cheltenham Festival, few names resonate with as much reverence as that of Irish handler Willie Mullins.

A maestro on the National Hunt scene, Mullins has etched his name in history as the most successful trainer in the annals of the prestigious Cheltenham Festival — boasting over 90 victories at Prestbury Park’s highlight meeting.

As the anticipation for this year’s Festival reaches a fever pitch, Mullins sets his sights on a remarkable 11th Leading Trainer award — aiming to secure an unprecedented six consecutive titles.

While the Closutton arsenal brims with formidable favourites poised for glory, our attention turns to the underdogs.

Read on as we venture beyond the horses in the spotlight — like El Fabiolo, Galopin Des Champs, and Lossiemouth — to uncover the potential hidden gems among Mullins’ outsiders.

Kargese – Triumph Hurdle

If Mullins is to win the Triumph Hurdle for the third year in a row, then it will need to be with an outsider as Sir Gino is the odds-on favourite for the opening race on the final day.

However, Mullins still holds a strong hand — with the four horses behind Nicky Henderson’s market leader in the Triumph Hurdle 2024 odds all hailing from Closutton.

While Majborough is the most favoured of those Mullins runners at 6/1, we’re siding with Kargese (8/1) — who left her stablemates in her wake to win the Grade 1 Spring Juvenile Hurdle when last seen.

Readin Tommy Wrong – Albert Barlett Novices’ Hurdle

The market for the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle is wide open at the time of writing, with Mullins’ trio of Dancing City, High Class Hero, and Readin Tommy Wrong all fancied at 6/1.

It’s the latter we are highlighting for the three-mile contest, as the Simon Munir and Isaac Souede-owned horse is unbeaten in his last four races.

After winning two bumpers, the six-year-old won on his debut over obstacles at Cork in November before landing the Grade 1 Lawlor’s Of Naas Novice Hurdle at Naas from 16/1 in January.

Readin Tommy Wrong also holds a Baring Bingham Novices’ Hurdle entry, where he’s fancied as the 7/1 fifth favourite.

Ferny Hollow – Queen Mother Champion Chase

While it will be very hard for anyone to beat El Fabiolo in the Queen Mother Champion Chase, Ferny Hollow made a good account of himself recently.

With a promising career marred by injuries, Ferny Hollow returned after 791 days on the sidelines to win the Grade 3 Newlands Chase at Naas by a commanding distance at the end of February.

That has resulted in the nine-year-old being slashed from as out as 25/1 to 9/1, and there’s no doubt Ferny Hollow has the quality needed to win this race if you’re looking for value to spend your xCheltenham welcome offers.

Capodanno – Ryanair Chase

Mullins has a fantastic record in the Ryanair Chase, winning five of the last eight renewals, but his best chance this year appears to be Capodanno.

El Fabiolo is the favourite with some operators, but he looks likelier to go to the aforementioned Champion Chase, leaving 8/1 Capodanno as Closutton’s leading charge.

The JP McManus-owned horse won the Grade 2 Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham in January, and while the Ryanair is a mile shorter in distance, Capodanno has been well backed.

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