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Last Updated: 11/03/14 2:05pm
Patrick Mullins and Bumper hope Black Hercules
View from connections ahead of the Weatherbys Champion Bumper at Cheltenham on Wednesday.
Patrick Mullins has let his heart rule his head in his decision to partner Black Hercules in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper at Cheltenham on Wednesday.
The amateur rider son of trainer Willie Mullins has plumped for Black Hercules over stablemates Killultagh Vic and Shaneshill in a race his father has already won a staggering eight times.
He knows all three horses well having ridden them in all their bumper races so far, but Black Hercules, a convincing winner of both his starts under Rules,
is the one for him as he was jointly responsible for buying him.
"Myself and my cousin (Emmet) bought Black Hercules as a young horse so I have an affinity for him. That's why I'm on him, " he said.
"He won his point-to-point and he's a strong stayer. He travelled over great. I think he'll handle the ground. It's obviously much better than he's handled before, but I think he will.
"To me he's a gorgeous horse. Mr (Graham) Wylie bought him and for him to win was a huge weight off the shoulders. Black Hercules is a real three-mile chaser and needs a real gallop to be seem at his best."
The young rider greatly respects his father's other two runners with stable jockey Ruby Walsh aboard Shaneshill and Paul Townend on Killultagh Vic.
"The ground will suit Shaneshill the best of our three I think," he said.
"He has a lot of speed and has a Flat pedigree. He'll love the ground and has been working very well.
"When Killultagh Vic won in Naas, the ground was yielding and he handled that OK. I think that was the most impressive performance of our three. He has improved with every run and he could improve again."
Top Flat jockey Pat Smullen was happy to leave the decision on which horse from Dermot Weld's pair he rides to the trainer.
He will be on Vigil with Robbie McNamara getting the leg up on Silver Concorde.
"He's a nice horse and both of Dermot's in the race are nice horses," said Smullen.
"There's very little between them and I'm really looking forward to the ride.
"I would have had the choice but I left it to the boss which one I ride. It would have been a tough decision so I left it up to him.
"I've ridden in the race a few times and it's great to be taking part in one of the races."
Of Silver Concorde, Weld said: "He's a decent horse. His first race turned out to be a special bumper, but he won well at Christmas.
"The better the ground, the better he'll run but he will want plenty of pace."
Another of the Irish challengers is the Pat Fahy-trained Stack The Deck, a winner at Limerick at Christmas but only third to Black Hercules at Gowran in January.
"He is a horse with a lot of gears and I wouldn't even think about taking him to Cheltenham if I didn't think he had a decent chance. I know how good he is, so I'll go on that," said Fahy.
Philip Fenton believes his runner, Value At Risk, has each-way claims and reports the five-year-old to be ready to run after last seeing a racecourse in December.
"A drop of rain would be nice, but at least he's running in the first two days, when hopefully the ground will be soft enough," said the County Tipperary trainer.
"He's a good horse and goes there nice and fresh having not run since Christmas.
"I think he's improved since his last run and hopefully he's got a good each-way shout."
Steve Gollings is excited at the prospect of saddling Definitly Red, who has won both his bumpers in promising fashion.
"He came out of the Newbury race well and win, lose or draw, I think he definitely deserves to take his chance at Cheltenham," said the Lincolnshire trainer.
"You can tangibly see how much he's improved both physically and mentally since he joined us.
"He's still a bit green, but he is a real professional at home and his head is definitely in the right place, which is a big plus for a race like the Champion Bumper.
"He won his point-to-point in Ireland and since he joined us all he has encountered is very bad conditions."
Modus is one of just three four-year-olds in the line-up, but he is a course winner and his trainer Robert Stephens has his fingers crossed for a bold showing.
"He had an easy time for a few weeks after his last run and then we built him back up again. He's been in full training for a while and I'm very happy with the way he's been working," said the Newport handler.
"It's difficult to know how his form ties in with some of the other horses in the race.
"When you consider The New One, who is one of the favourites for the Champion Hurdle, won the same Cheltenham bumper as us and could only finish sixth at the Festival, it shows how difficult it is for four-year-olds.
"We'll go there expecting a big run and as he's won in very soft and better ground, the conditions won't be a worry for us."