sport

Star duo key to Mullins fortunes

Willie Mullins is placing victories for Hurricane Fly and Quevega the highest on his Cheltenham Festival wishlist.

The trainer played down a minor hiccup in Quevega's preparation ahead of a sixth consecutive OLBG Mares' Hurdle, but could not be happier where he stands with dual Champion Hurdler Hurricane Fly, whom he actually believes is better than ever at the age of 10.

Asked to summarise his expectations at a meeting which provided five victories in 2013, he said "I hope Quevega wins, I hope Hurricane Fly wins, they'd be huge for us on the Tuesday.

"After that, I hope we can get another winner. I know that if you put up four bankers, three of them will get beat."

Quevega has appeared only twice for the last couple of years, winning at Cheltenham and then going on to Punchestown.

Now also 10, she is well known as being frustrating to train.

Mullins said: "I wasn't happy with the way she was moving and I got the vets in but she's fine now. She had a few easy days because she was ahead of schedule but she has been back out riding the last couple of days.

"She'll do fast work on Saturday. I thought about giving her a run - I did even think about entering her for a mares' race at Punchestown today but I decided against it."

Hurricane Fly was out on the gallops under Paul Townend on Wednesday morning. With 19 Grade Ones in the bag, including his recent fourth Irish Champion Hurdle success, the gelding is sure to again be popular in the betting come March 11.

"Two seasons ago he wasn't right, last season he was getting better, but last summer was the best summer we've ever had," Mullins said.

"He had a proper summer and looked so good that maybe he was going to improve. It's very surprising, I didn't expect a horse of his age to improve, and especially a Montjeu as many of them don't train on.

"He's stronger but still retains his fight and aggression."

Champion Hurdle sponsors Stan James have Hurricane Fly as their 3-1 joint-favourite with The New One, and Our Conor 9-2 and My Tent Or Yours at 5s in a tight head.

"I don't think about the dangers," Mullins said. "My job is to get him there. The betting suggests what the dangers are."