Sir Gerhard Represents an Interesting Cheltenham Conundrum for Mullins

Horse Racing
Mullins names strong Auteuil team

As is always the case, Willie Mullins’ yard is going to have a lot of scrutiny on it over the next several weeks.

The Irish trainer will once again bring a formidable team to the Cheltenham Festival, although it remains to be seen whether he can break the superb record of 10 Festival winners set last year. Nonetheless, he’ll bring several favourites over from his Closutton yard, including the market leader for the Gold Cup, Galopin Des Champs, and the Champion Chase, Energumene.

Mullins, you’d trust, always has a clear plan for his charges, but you can sense that he is somewhat stumped over what to do with Sir Gerhard. When speaking to the media about future entries, the often-stoic Mullins can sometimes seem nonchalant in the face of a press gaggle hungry for concrete plans. But behind the scenes, you can assume that the gears are whirring to concoct a plan for the undoubtedly talented Sir Gerhard.

Sir Gerhard was (somewhat) impressive at Gowran Park

Last year’s Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle winner made his seasonal debut – and his first run over fences – at Gowran Park last Thursday, and it will be the last time we see him until Cheltenham. The outing at Gowran saw Sir Gerhard win by 36 lengths. Impressive, but only to an extent. Sir Gerhard looked unsure at times, almost throwing Paul Townend from the saddle after a mistake. Moreover, the quality of the opposition in the three-horse race was nothing like what he will face at Cheltenham.

But where, exactly, will Mullins put him? Sir Gerhard has, at the time of writing, five entries for the Festival: The Arkle, Champion Hurdle, Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase, Turners Novices’ Chase, and the Stayers’ Hurdle. We can quickly eliminate the two championship races, as the plan seems to be to send him over fences. So that leaves the Arkle, Brown Advisory, or Turners.

Odds for Arkle should be bypassed

At the time of writing, he’s as big as 25/1 for the Arkle, although some bookies have him as low as 6/1. To hear Mullins talk about it, though, there seems like little chance he is going for the Arkle. It’s worth noting that most horse racing betting odds for the Festival at this point of the year are NRNB, so it might be pointless to back him for the Arkle, even if the odds look generous.

Indeed, Mullins seems to point to either the Turners at 2½ miles, or stepping up in trip for the Brown Advisory at just over 3 miles. You’d assume Mullins will know exactly what to do with him, and he did look to have plenty left in the tank when strolling to that win at Gowran Park (2 miles). However, the issue for backers is that Sir Gerhard hasn’t run over 3 miles since his point-to-point debut in 2019. Thus, you are going to have to trust Mullins’ judgement rather than the evidence of your own eyes.

Trusting Mullins is no bad thing at Cheltenham, of course. We are talking about a two-time Cheltenham winner here, so punters will know he is a class act that can handle whatever the Festival throws at him. Still, it’s going to be interesting to see what Mullins has planned with one of the several aces he has in his pack.

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