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Willie Mullins trained Brandy Love can hit the spot in Mares Hurdle

Opening day of the Festival throws up plenty of ‘Klassical’ battles.

Paul Townend on Brandy Lee© www.carolinenorris.ie

John BrennanSunday World

Just because he has done it before doesn’t mean he will do it again.

But the Master Trainer Willie Mullins is once again sending horses to Cheltenham this week to win big races off disrupted and far from perfect preparations.

Brandy Love, in Tuesday’s Mares Hurdle, and Klassical Dream, in Thursday’s Stayers Hurdle, are just two horses that Mullins wished he could have got out on the track more often this season before they headed off to horse racing’s version of the Olympics.

But niggling injuries dictated otherwise.

At least the pair are going to Cheltenham.

Allaho, twice a winner of the Ryanair Chase, will miss the Festival because of an ill-timed injury.

So we are denied what would have been a mouth-watering showdown with Nicky Henderson’s Shishkin.

While strapping chaser Monkfish, twice a Cheltenham winner as a novice hurdler and a novice chaser, will miss his second festival through injury.

Mullins is the man when it comes to getting a horse to give of its very best at Cheltenham without having the usual three or four runs in the season under its belt.

The great Quevega made a career out of turning up at Cheltenham and winning first time out – while Penhill was a Mullins winner of the Stayers Hurdle on his first appearance of the season.

“It is a difficult thing to do, it’s not at all ideal, but if it is the hand we are dealt with then we will play it,” says the man who has trained 88 Cheltenham winners.

“There is the temptation to work the horse that bit harder on the gallops because they have not been seen on a racecourse.

“And then they re-injure whatever went wrong on the first place. It’s a very fine line to get right – and we’ve got it wrong from time to time.

“It’s always a bigger challenge to bring horses there first time out, or with just one run under their belts.”

Even with only five days to the race, the Closutton supremo is not sure Klassical Dream will make it to his Thursday contest.

“It’ll be touch and go, he had a setback after running at Fairyhouse before Christmas and we lost a fair bit of time with him.

“If there was a 6/4 favourite for the Stayers Hurdle, I think I’d put Klassical Dream by and bring him back for Aintree or Punchestown next month.

“But there isn’t a 6/4 favourite. The Stayers is probably the most open Championship race in all of Cheltenham this year and I think he would have a right chance if he can run.”

On the form of his narrow defeat to Teahupoo in the Hattons Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse, Klassical Dream is right there in the Stayers mix, if Mullins can work his magic once more.

As he must do with Brandy Love on Tuesday in one of the most competitive races of the week, the Mares Hurdle.

Half the probable field for the Mares Hurdle ought to be running in the Champion Hurdle which takes place 40 minutes before this race.

But they seem set to shy away from the task of taking on Constitution Hill and Mullins’ own State Man.

Brandy Love has managed just one run this season, when beaten by Gordon Elliott’s Queens Brook at Punchestown.

But Mullins is happy he can over-turn that loss.

“That was Brandy Love’s first run of the season, she’ll come on for that,” insists Mullins.

Klassical Dream may run in a very open race, Brandy Love will have to take on a very deep one as they bid to add to their trainers’ list of Cheltenham winners achieved against the odds.

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