Willie Mullins’ sensational training career looks set to hit new heights this weekend as he bids to land a record-breaking ninth consecutive Unibet Morgiana Hurdle.
The 13-time Irish Champion NH trainer is joint-holder of the trainers' world record (Flat or Jumps) for the most consecutive wins in a top-level race thanks to Sharjah’s romp in the 2018 renewal of the Morgiana Hurdle, which equalled the record of Etienne Pollet in the Prix de la Salamandre between 1955 and 1962.
Bernard Secly won the Prix La Haye Jousselin seven consecutive times (1993-99), all with Al Capone, while legendary Irish Jumps trainer Tom Dreaper did the same in the Irish Grand National (1960-66).
Aidan O'Brien has trained the last nine Beresford Stakes winners, but that is only a Group 2 race.
Outright ownership of the record now looks almost certain with Mullins responsible for the top three in the betting for this year’s renewal of the Punchestown contest, which takes up a Saturday slot for the first time, and the one most likely to plunder the €100,000 prize is dual Grade 1-winning novice Klassical Dream who is 4/9 market leader with the race sponsors.
All eyes will be on last year’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle hero who steps out of novice company for the first time on his seasonal return.
The five-year-old isn’t even the highest-rated runner in the prestigious 2m contest – he is 3lb inferior to stablemate and last year’s winner Sharjah – but Klassical Dream is the potential horse in the race and is the current 3/1 ante-post favourite to win the 2020 Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham.
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Mullins, the winning most trainer at the Cheltenham Festival with 65 winners, will also be represented in the Morgiana by Saldier, winner of last season’s AES Champion Four Year Old Hurdle, but it is Klassical Dream that the Closutton team are most looking forward to seeing return, especially his jockey Paul Townend.
Townend, who took over as number-one stable jockey from Ruby Walsh earlier this year, said: “Klassical Dream has to step up to the big league now as he steps out of being a novice last season but hopefully he can do that.
“He was very impressive on all his starts last season and he seems to be the real deal, but he has to prove that now in against the big boys.
“I loved him when I won on him at Leopardstown last season. He made a mess of the last hurdle and he galloped away to the line again. He always showed us at home that he was a bit above average.
“The Morgiana Hurdle fits in nicely to his season and it's a good place to start.
“If Klassical Dream can do half of what either Hurricane Fly or Faugheen did he wouldn't be doing a bad job! But in this game we are always looking for potential and the potential is there with Klassical Dream and I'm really looking forward to Punchestown at the weekend.”
The Unibet Morgiana Hurdle goes off at 2.00 on Saturday and will be live on Racing TV.