Mystical Power, ante-post favourite for the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, leads the way as bumper entries for the Cheltenham Festival contests were revealed.
Willie Mullins’ charge is bred to be a Prestbury Park superstar as a son of Champion Hurdle-winning mare Annie Power and the late Flat supersire Galileo and he propelled himself to the head of affairs for the two-mile curtain raiser with a seven-length stroll in the Grade Two Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle at Punchestown earlier this month.
However, he is certainly not the only key contender for the Closutton team with 25-length Leopardstown winner Ballyburn also to the fore and Mullins responsible for 23 of the 63 initial entries.
Jeriko Du Reponet is the leading home-trained hope for Nicky Henderson, while Gordon Elliott is another with plenty to pick from, headed by Caldwell Potter, Farren Glory and Firefox.
As is usual at this early stage, plenty hold more than one Festival ticket, with Ballyburn at the top of the ante-post betting for the Baring Bingham Novices’ Hurdle, which is run over two miles and five furlongs.
Mystical Power is also entered in that, although stablemates Readin Tommy Wrong and Ile Atlantique, who finished first and second in a Naas Grade One, have been popular picks so far.
Farren Glory and Caldwell Potter also feature on a list of 86 entries, with the Harry Fry-trained Gidleigh Park the shortest-priced British runner after winning each of his three starts to date.
Mullins appears to hold the aces in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle, with Readin Tommy Wrong, High Class Hero, Lecky Watson and Loughglynn filling the top of the ante-post lists, with Paul Nicholls’ Challow winner Captain Teague, who is also entered in the Baring Bingham, rated the main opposition by the bookmakers in a race with 63 entries.
The JCB Triumph Hurdle bucks the Mullins trend with Burdett Road the current favourite for trainer James Owen having won each of his two starts over obstacles, both victories being registered in impressive style.
Ex-French runner Sir Gino is next best for Henderson after hacking up by 14 lengths on his British bow, while the Mullins-trained Storm Heart is the shortest-priced Irish contender at this point having won by 22 lengths on his debut for the team.
The 44 entries also include the Harry Derham-trained Givemefive, Monday’s Warwick winner who is owned by golf Major winners Graeme McDowell and Brooks Koepka.