Willie Mullins is confident Facile Vega possesses all the required attributes to provide him with a record 12th victory in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper.
It is 26 years since the Closutton maestro trained and rode Wither Or Which to victory in a Grade One contest he has since made his own.
He went on to saddle the next two winners in Florida Pearl and Alexander Banquet, while Cousin Vinny (2008), Champagne Fever (2012) and last year’s hero Sir Gerhard are among those to have struck gold since the turn of the century.
Facile Vega, a son of the six-times Festival heroine Quevega, is a red-hot favourite for this year’s renewal, having looked well above average in winning twice at Leopardstown – most recently powering clear of what appeared a strong field at last month’s Dublin Racing Festival.
Mullins earmarked the five-year-old as a potential star from an early stage, saying: “I got him ready last year to run and he did a bit of work one day that said to me ‘wow, this fellow could be special’.
“He got jarred and I left him alone after that. I thought if I could get him back this year to what he was last year I’d be happy, but we trained him with kid gloves as I didn’t want to overstretch him.
“I just hoped he had in the tank what was there last year and we took him to the racetrack and he won nicely, then what he did the last day from the furlong marker was exceptional.”
The horse rated the biggest threat to Facile Vega by bookmakers is American Mike, who has been similarly impressive in his two bumper starts for Gordon Elliott.
Mullins, however, would not swap his charge, adding: “He’s done everything right. I don’t know how his form matches up to American Mike, but from what I’ve seen at home he’s the one I’d want to be riding, anyhow.”
Houlanbatordechais, James’s Gate, Madmansgame, Redemption Day, Seabank Bistro and Viva Devito complete the formidable Mullins squad.
Elliott has never made any secret of the regard in which he holds American Mike and is anticipating a bold showing in the day two finale.
“We’ve gone the same route that we’ve gone with Envoi Allen, Sir Gerhard and a few of those horses, so we said we’d go that way with him,” said the Cullentra handler.
“He’s in very good form, he looks very strong and we’re happy with him. He’s shown us good signs at home. From Christmas to now, the race has got a lot hotter, the better horses have come out.
“He’s a nice horse and has done nothing wrong.”