Mullins leads the charge to Perth
If preparation is the key to success, anyone with a bet on Willie Mullins to beat Paul Nicholls in the race for the National Hunt Champion Trainer's title will be pleased to learn that the County Carlow trainer's horses were first to arrive at Perth on Monday night.
Perth's new state-of-the-art stable block, which will be in use for the first time during the Perth Festival, welcomed five Mullins-trained horses at close to midnight as he targets his share of the £220,000 prize pot up for grabs over the three-day festival.
Perth chief executive Hazel Peplinski praised the support of the Fair City's fully-sponsored season opener saying:
"There's some terrific quality on show for day one of the festival and, with the race for the trainer's title still very much alive, we're intrigued that Willie has targeted Perth in his bid to become the first Irish-based trainer for over 60 years to land the title although it looks a hard task at this stage."
This is Mullins' first ever venture to the UK's most northerly track, where the first day's feature race is the £18,000 British Stallions Future Champions EBF NH Novices Hurdle.
Mullins has two of the four runners but despite the small field it promises to be an absolute cracker of a race. Top National Hunt owners Gigginstown House Stud, The Rooneys, The Wylies and Ronnie Bartlett are all merging at Scone to produce a future champion in what will be a race to savour.
Perth's main sponsor of the day is Aberdeen Asset Management and their feature of three races sponsored is the 3-mile £15,000 Aberdeen Asset Management Handicap Chase, which is headed in the weights by Bernadelli (N. Richards) with an interesting contender in Tom George's No Duffer also lining up in the competitive field of nine.
The three-day extravaganza of racing is set to feature a number of celebrations with the news that trainer Gordon Elliott, a popular figure at Perth having recorded his first ever winner here in 2006, will be honoured for this year's Cheltenham Gold Cup win on Wednesday.
The first race broadcast on the new giant screen in the paddock will be a re-run of the Elliot-trained Don Cossack's victory followed by an interview with the man himself.
Elliot's fabulous season is not the only reason for a Festival toast and Perth racecourse has teamed up with Glengoyne Single Malt Whisky to 'raise a dram' each day of the Festival, with free samples being made available around the Winners Enclosure.
Alex Steadman, Perth's new Race day presenter, shall be cajoling the racegoers to offer other good excuses for more toasts but already on the agenda are toasts for The Queen's 90th Birthday on Thursday and some notable achievements from the saddle on Friday.
Richard Johnson's NH Jockey's Championship title will be acknowledged along with Brian Hughes' winning of the Top Northern Jump Jockeys award.
The Festival closes with a 90-minute Graceland Tribute gig by Bwani Junction live from The Barn between 17.30 and 19.00 on Friday evening.
Season tickets for Perth are available from £195 with a three-day Festival ticket available for £45. Grandstand tickets are available for each single day at £18.