“He does his best work on good ground”, was the lingering quote from Willie Mullins following the imperious victory of MIN in the Moscow Flyer Novices’ Hurdle at Punchestown back in early January, where this huge five-year-old strolled to victory on the heavy ground that day, cementing all of the hype and whispers surrounding himself in the early season.
Some legitimately exciting novices have developed in opposition to the favourite, including his own stablemate Yorkhill who has been gambled on by some respected judges in recent days.
Nicky Henderson’s pair Buveur D’Air and Altior both have similarly improving profiles and a similar level of ability coming to the party. A lot will depend then on how they handle the occasion, the track and what kind of luck they get through the race. On Boxing Day at Kempton, Altior looked to be coming under pressure leaving the back straight, but he picked up stylishly over the last two hurdles to put the race to bed with ease. He could just be the one to prove best of the UK contingent for Cheltenham Festival 2016.
But Min is a horse tasked with a mission, that mission is to complete a famous trio of wins in the Sky Bet Supreme Novices Hurdle for Willie Mullins, Ruby Walsh and owner Rich Ricci. This horse looks to have all of the class and flare of Douvan and Vautour and we are yet to see how good he could be on good ground. Expect him to be “very, very good”.
Later on, his stablemate VROUM VROUM MAG looks a steering job in the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle. This massively talented mare had entries in everything from this to the Ryanair Chase, to the Ryanair World Hurdle and she would have been near favourite for the other two races as well.
She has won all of her eight starts since joining Willie Mullins and in a race the trainer has farmed for years, she will surely have far too much class for her rivals in the 4.10pm Grade 1 contest.