06 February 2023

Mullins hoping Cheltenham experience can aid State’s case

06 February 2023

Willie Mullins insists track experience will help as State Man heads for a mouth-watering Champion Hurdle clash with “freak” Constitution Hill.

State Man landed the County Hurdle at the Prestbury Park track last March and has subsequently won four consecutive top-class races.

Following Sunday’s defeat of Honeysuckle in the Chanelle Pharma Irish Champion Hurdle, the six-year-old Doctor Dino gelding was cut to a general 11-4 second favourite behind Nicky Henderson’s unbeaten Constitution Hill for the March 14 showpiece.

“Horses for courses is the old saying and State Man has won around the track, which is huge in our preparation,” said Mullins.

“We’re looking forward to it and I’m sure they’re looking forward to it.

“There’s other horses in the race as well, but at the moment State Man looks to be the leading Irish contender and Constitution Hill looks to be the English one.

Constitution Hill could be a bit of a freak and maybe we're going to be unlucky to come against a horse like that, but it's all there to play for at the moment.

“Constitution Hill could be a bit of a freak and maybe we’re going to be unlucky to come against a horse like that, but it’s all there to play for at the moment.

“Fingers crossed, we all get there and we get to compete.”

Allaho, a brilliant winner of the last two renewals of the Ryanair Chase, has not run since taking the Punchestown Gold Cup in April but Mullins is happy with his condition at present.

The nine-year-old had been expected to feature in both the Clonmel Oil Chase in November and the King George VI Chase at Kempton, but met with what his owners, Cheveley Park Stud, described as “a couple of niggles”.

However, Mullins, speaking at a media morning at his Bagenalstown-based stables on Monday, revealed he is nearing a return to fitness and said: “I’m very happy with Allaho. He’s doing some fast work.”

The imposing Monkfish, who had been vying for 2022 Cheltenham Gold Cup favouritism when suffering a tendon injury that has ruled him out of action since finishing runner-up in a Punchestown Grade One in April 2021, is also on the comeback trail.

Mullins added: “Monkfish is just a little bit behind him, but at the moment they’re both going well, and Klassical Dream is another one that comes back into the picture.

“It’s going to be touch and go whether they make it, but certainly I’m much happier with Allaho than any of the others.

“I think he’s a specialist Ryanair chaser. A lot of people want to see him in a Gold Cup, but I’d be more worried about him going three and a quarter miles than I would about Galopin Des Champs.

“Allaho is so spectacular over the Ryanair trip. I think he could go back to two miles if you wanted to, but with his style of racing, it might break his heart if he got beaten and we don’t want to do that.”

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