Skelton bemoans ‘easier’ Cheltenham preparation for Mullins stars

Mullins, the most succesful trainer in Cheltenham history, enjoyed a phenomenal two days at Leopardstown, winning nine of the meeting’s 15 races, including six of its eight Grade 1s. 

While Mullins’ major Irish rival, Gordon Elliott, chose to head straight to Cheltenham with some of his star names, most notably Envoi Allen, the meeting has generally been praised for offering a condensed programme of high-quality racing.

However, speaking on Nick Luck’s Daily Podcast, Skelton suggested Mullins’ horses usually benefit from having faced easier assignments when it comes to the Festival in March. 

“It is frustrating watching it,” Skelton said. “The lack of resistance means you are getting prep races in Grade Ones that aren’t taking anything out of his horses.

“That is the thing that makes him [Mullins] difficult to beat at Cheltenham, that his prep is easier than everybody else because his horses don’t have to go into the red in their prep races.”

Mullins was delighted as likes of Monkfish, Appreciate It Energumene and Chacun Pour Soi all obliged as odds-on favourites, and all four will head to Cheltenham among the leading fancies of the week.

Two of Skelton’s stable stars have Mullins runners among their biggest competition, with Allmankind currently third-favourite for the Arkle, where he will meet Energumene, while Nube Negra will be looking to upset Chacun Pour Soi in the Champion Chase.

“Who is taking the easier route to the biggest day?” Skelton added. “This is where I think the magnification of Cheltenham is a potential downfall because people know they are going to get a hard race there. They are avoiding hard races en route because they want to go there with their biggest chance.

“That is why I think some races outside of Cheltenham Festival aren’t as supported as they should be because they (trainers and connections) know they are going to get a hard race. If they have a hard race, it’s going to be harder to get over.

“When Willie has a horse in a race he’s basically getting a freebie around the track in Ireland.

“I actually think preparation makes champions. The less you take out of the tank, the more is in there when you need it.”

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