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Mullins confident Appreciate It is primed for Champion challenge

Willie Mullins is confident Appreciate It is firing on all cylinders ahead of what will be his first start in a year in next month’s Unibet Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham.

The eight-year-old has not been seen in competitive action since his scintillating 24-length success over the same course and distance in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the 2021 Festival.

Appreciate It was due to pursue a career over fences this term, but a mid-season injury prompted a change of of tack and he will instead bid to provide Mullins with a fifth Champion Hurdle success.

“Appreciate It looks to be in great form at home. I had him away for a gallop last week and I was very, very happy with him – he galloped very well,” Mullins said during a press visit to his yard on Wednesday morning.

“I’d say we have a good record with running horses first time out at Cheltenham. I don’t know we’ve done it in a Champion Hurdle, but obviously we did it with Quevega and Joe Cullen would have won first time up (when winning the 2000 Champion Bumper).

“It’s not something I’m worried about. I made the decision ages ago and the closer we’ve got, the happier I am that we didn’t have a run.”

While the Closutton handler could not be happier with how Appreciate It’s preparation is gone, he is fully aware of the task he faces in taking on defending champion Honeysuckle.

Henry de Bromhead’s superstar mare stretched her unbeaten record to 14 when claiming her third Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown on her latest outing and will be a hot favourite to deliver once more in the Cotswolds.

“It’s a big challenge for any horse to take on Honeysuckle,” Mullins added.

“She races anywhere Rachael (Blackmore) puts her and there doesn’t look to be much in the British Isles that can beat her, anyhow.”

How Mullins will split his aces in the novice hurdling division is less clear at this stage.

The two that top the bill are Sir Gerhard and Dysart Dynamo, who both have the option of running in the Supreme Novices’ and the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle.

As is his wont, Mullins plans to make a late call on who will head where.

Paul Townend and Sir Gerhard in action at Leopardstown
Paul Townend and Sir Gerhard in action at Leopardstown (Niall Carson/PA)

“Kilcruit runs in the Supreme, anyway. After that, I don’t know,” he said.

“I really want to hear what Paul (Townend) would have to say about what he would like to ride in the first race (Supreme).

“I have a fair idea what I’m going to do, but I want to see how they work and chat to Paul and I don’t want to chat to him too soon. And I want to chat with David (Casey) and Patrick (Mullins) and Ruby (Walsh) and their input will be huge, too.

“I always think it will be a great problem to have on the morning of declarations.”

He added: “Dysart Dynamo was very good the last day. He was very free in front, but Paul has said to me that when you ride him in behind horses he’s fine.

“Sir Gerhard does everything right, except for the last day when we made the running with him, which I think didn’t suit him. I’ve no doubt that whatever race he runs in, getting a lead, he’ll be fine.

“He has plenty of speed and jumps well. I’m looking forward to getting him over there and he could go in either race.

“You could toss a coin to decide which race he goes to. That’s the sort of ability I think he has.”

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