Willie Mullins is confident that Bellshill can put his previous Cheltenham form behind him when he goes for the Gold Cup at this year’s Festival.
Willie Mullins could run as many as four horses in his attempt to finally win the Cheltenham Gold Cup next month, with Bellshill set to lead the charge.
The Closutton maestro is already the all-time leading trainer at the Cheltenham Festival with a running tally of 61 winners.
The Gold Cup and the Queen Mother Champion Chase have managed to elude Mullins down the years, despite a number of near misses.
Florida Pearl was second in the Gold Cup in 2000 and since then Mullins has watched as Hedgehunter (2006), Sir Des Champs (2013), On His Own (2014), and Djakadam (2015 and 2016) all found just one too good in the Blue Ribband.
Most frustrating of all was On His Own; beaten a short-head by Lord Windermere in a race where a stewards’ inquiry was held after some late interference.
Mullins, 11/4 with Betfred to be leading trainer at the Festival, is eyeing a strong team for the latest renewal on March 15, with the possibility he’ll unleash a quartet.
“We have gone close several times and to win the Gold Cup at long last would be nice,” he said.
“We’re planning to run Bellshill and Kemboy, probably Al Boum Photo and maybe Invitation Only. It looks wide open this year and I think we have live chances.”
Bellshill booked his place when he defeated Road To Respect, fourth in last year’s Gold Cup, to win the Irish version at Leopardstown this month.
While he has yet to succeed in three appearances at the Cheltenham Festival, Mullins feels Bellshill is maturing and that he can improve on his RSA Chase third behind Might Bite in 2017.
“Bellshill is in a good place,” he said. “Things have really come together for him since the end of last season, when he won the Punchestown Gold Cup. He’s a particularly good jumper.
“He’s won on testing ground and on good, stays well, and we’ve been happy with him since his last run. He hasn’t done well at Cheltenham in the past but is in better shape this time and it’s all systems go.”
Bellshill is a 12/1 chance to give Mullins his maiden Cheltenham Gold Cup win.
Odds subject to change.