Willie Mullins column: Weekend preview

Our star columnist looks back on some star Christmas performers and ahead to his runners at Punchestown on Saturday.

We had a fantastic Christmas and it’s testament to the whole team at Closutton, to be able to produce the horses on the day.

We were very happy, not just the big winners but we also had lots of horses run really well in defeat.

State Man showed us on the track what he’d been showing us all at home, that his improvement has been steady, and I’m hoping he can maintain that right through the March and April ​festivals in the spring. He’s a very exciting prospect to have in the yard.

Vauban came back and put in a really good comeback run. I was delighted to see that from him as he hadn’t really been showing me a lot at home. So he’s on the right track.

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Allegorie De Vassy made a tremendous debut over fences at Limerick. I thought the ground might catch her out but she seemed to skip across it. She’s a mare that looks like she has a bright future.

We had a couple of lovely bumper performers over the weekend – Fact To File at Leopardstown and Chosen Witness down in Limerick.

I think both of these horses will improve. I loved the way Chosen Witness stayed on right through the line and I like how Fact To File looked like he was beaten before changing gear and putting it to bed halfway up the straight. I think there’s a lot more to come from him.

Ile Atlantique was another winner at Leopardstown and showed what he’s been showing us at home. Unfortunately he had one run over hurdles in France so he’s not qualified for the championship bumpers. So we will stick down a domestic path him and hopefully he can win another bumper, if not two.

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Aione – 12.15 Punchestown

Paul (Townend) rides Aione who has been off the track for quite a long time. He jumps well and he’s a big, lovely chasing type. Obviously, he’s had a few training problems. Having his first run back over a trip this far could just make it difficult for him.

Hi Ho Phoenix – 12.15 Punchestown

He’ll love this trip and is another having his first run of the season. He might not be as good a horse as Aione in the long-term, but I think he’s well coming into this race. He might be better value under Danny Mullins.

Sinbad Le Marin – 1.22 Punchestown

He’s a lovely horse we bought off the Flat in France. He’s by up-and-coming sire Zarak, the same sire as Zarak The Brave who we also have. This fella has the potential to make a good-class hurdler and he’s probably going to like soft ground. If his inexperience doesn’t count against him, he’ll run a big race. He’s one to follow anyhow.

Saint Sam – 1.57 Punchestown

We’re going back over hurdles with Saint Sam and up to a longer trip. He’s got a big task here as he’s not well in at the weights. I’d like to see him settling and using the stamina his pedigree says he should have. But he’s inclined to over-race early and that’s why I’d be a bit worried about him here.

Abi’s Champ – 3.42 Punchestown

Patrick rides this Leading Light filly. While she’s a nice horse, this is going to be a tough assignment and I’m hoping she can finish in the first four and we could maybe plan something a little easier in the future.

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