Willie Mullins is preparing to let stablemates Allaho and Chacun Pour Soi do battle for the William Hill Champion Chase at Punchestown.
Allaho came of age with a brilliant front-running display in the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham last month, while Chacun Pour Soi could finish only third when bidding to provide his trainer with an elusive first victory in the Queen Mother Champion Chase the previous afternoon.
Mullins is keen to test Allaho’s powers over two miles in the feature event on the opening day of the Festival next Tuesday to try to find out whether he could be a legitimate contender for the Champion Chase at Cheltenham next season.
“The William Hill Champion Chase could be a good race,” said the champion trainer.
“At the moment I’m looking at the race for Allaho. I’d just like to see what he can do over two miles – he jumps so efficiently and so well, that is where my head is at at the moment.
“I think this is the natural race for Chacun Pour Soi. There will be plenty of pace on and Cilaos Emery will probably go there as well, so we will be well represented in the race.”
Mullins is preparing another formidable team for the end-of-season showpiece meeting in County Kildare.
Also running on day one is Appreciate It, who will bid to follow up his brilliant win in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham with victory in the eCOMM Merchant Solutions Champion Novice Hurdle.
On plans for that race, Mullins said: “Appreciate It will definitely go, Blue Lord is in there as well and Echoes In Rain is interesting.
“She will probably go for the mares’ race, but her performance in Fairyhouse was very good and she is in the Champion Novice Hurdle on Tuesday getting a nice fillies allowance, so we’ll see.”
Tuesday’s Dooley Insurance Group Champion Novice Chase could stage one of the clashes of the season, with the Mullins-trained Monkfish set to lock horns with Henry de Bromhead’s Envoi Allen.
Monkfish was made to work a little harder than many expected when stretching his unbeaten record over fences to four in the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham, but ultimately got the job done.
“Monkfish didn’t jump with the same flair that he jumped (with previously) and he didn’t gallop with the same flair (at Cheltenham), but he’ll go for the three-mile race on Tuesday,” Mullins confirmed.
The Closutton handler expects Monkfish to be joined by at least a couple of stable companions, adding: “Colreevy has been covered by Walk In The Park and she will go. That will probably be her last run.
“The Flynns (owners) are out-and-out breeders and she is a fantastic looking mare and hopefully she’ll be lucky.
“From winning at Christmas over two miles, I think I’m going to put Franco De Port in over three miles and that will tell us where we are going next year.
“We’ll have a good hand in that race.”
Looking ahead to the rest of the Punchestown Festival, Mullins is looking forward to seeing Al Boum Photo and Kemboy renew rivalry in Wednesday’s Ladbrokes Gold Cup.
Ruby Walsh famously retired on Kemboy when getting the better of his dual Cheltenham Gold Cup-winning stablemate Al Boum Photo in the last running of the day two feature in 2019.
Cheltenham one-two Sir Gerhard and Kilcruit will lead the Mullins team in Wednesday’s ITM – Supporting Irish Store Sales Champion Bumper, while Sharjah, James Du Berlais, Klassical Dream and Saldier are potential runners in the Paddy Power Champion Hurdle on Friday.
Mullins also confirmed Energumene, who missed the Arkle at Cheltenham due to a late setback, is on course to return in the Ryanair Novice Chase on Thursday.
“Punchestown is what we always look forward to. There is huge prize money, fantastic racing, they always produce great ground and just the amphitheatre of Punchestown itself,” Mullins added.
“I often think there is no racetrack like it in the world when you see it laid out for five days racing. It’s just amazing and the whole concept of the Punchestown Festival is huge when you see the work and preparation that goes into it.
“There is fantastic prize money so we are not putting them out to grass just yet – they’ll get plenty of grass in the summer!”