Willie Mullins has saddled up Ivan Grozny for three starts in Ireland since he joined his stable from France and has had to assess how good the horse is before deciding on what race to aim him for the Cheltenham Festival.
It appears as though the Irish Champion Trainer has decided on the Fred Winter Juvenile Hurdle as the four-year old has been popular in the market for the Grade Three contest where he is now clear favourite.
Ivan Grozny almost made a winning start to his career in Ireland when he was just touched off by a head in December. Plinth was the horse who denied him a debut win at Leopardstown.
Mullins’ novice hurdler was able to go one better next time out as he scored at Naas in a 22 runner field where he went off as the short odds-on favourite.
The four-year old’s final run before the Festival was in the Grade One Gala Retail Spring Juvenile Hurdle at Leopardstown. He was unable to justify the heavy market support as he could only finish fourth in the highest company.
Dawalan is the only horse above Ivan Gruzny in the betting for the Festival contest. Nicky Henderson’s runner represents the best of the British runners on his form so far this season.
The Champion Trainer is set to resist trying his mount at a higher level of race and instead will aim for the Grade Three.
The former French horse has had four runs in his campaign so far, where he has scored on two of those starts. His most notable victory was at Newbury on January 15 where he beat a field of seven which included Carry on Sydney and Prince Khurram.