Willie Mullins runs through his leading lights for the 2018 Cheltenham Festival as we get the latest on Douvan, Faugheen, Yorkhill, Killultagh Vic and more.
Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle - Getabird (6/4 at Sky Bet, Non Runner No Bet on all 28 Festival races)
Getabird was very good in Punchestown the last day and I think he's improving all the time. He's not as flashy at home as the likes of Douvan. Even working the other day I wasn't impressed, but Sonny Carey rides him every day and he said he's in great order. He picked the Supreme for himself by winning so nicely in Punchestown.
Racing Post Arkle Chase - Footpad (Evens)
All is well. He has just a beautiful method of jumping. He was good enough to run well in a Champion Hurdle and he always had ability, but his method of jumping has catapulted him right to the top. He stays, he could do (Gold Cup route in the future). We don’t have any problem with him staying, but you think to yourself could he be a Champion Chase horse? With his method of jumping, could he be easier to keep sound running over two miles rather than three-and-a-half? Gold Cup racing is so tough. He’s just a natural. He takes it wherever he meets it, he stands back, he’s very quick and he has no fear.
It was great when Faugheen came out the first day and won the Morgiana and you think everything is great. I thought he worked quite well, well enough to run the last day and he ran a grand race, way better than at Christmas anyhow, but he’ll have to up his game to try and win at Cheltenham. I still think he’s competitive. I was downhearted, but then when we came home we still had plenty of time to find that spark and get better from Leopardstown to the middle of March. We haven’t calmed down with him at home, perhaps a bit slower than usual, but he’s improving all the time. If they can come back and do it again that’s a bonus, if they can’t well, we all saw how good he was. Many horses have the willpower, the stamina to keep coming back year after year and I’ve been lucky enough to have a few of them, but he might not come back and reach the heights that he did. Hopefully he can come back to that, but age is not on his side, so if it isn’t to be it isn’t to be. Maybe that run, maybe it was just a building block to Cheltenham and Punchestown. Maybe it wasn’t that bad. He fires around Cheltenham, so that’s what we’re hoping, that when he gets back there that can reignite him as well.
Yorkhill’s in the Champion Hurdle and the Ryanair. We’ll have to see with him. He’s not a great work horse at home, he’s very lazy, and you’ve seen at the racetrack when he gets to the front. I’m thinking Champion Hurdle, but he would be a nice one to have with Un De Sceaux in the Ryanair. I’m not going to make that decision yet. He didn’t want to jump at that speed over fences (in the Dublin Chase over two miles). Even at the second or third fence you could see he wasn’t going to jump with two-mile chasers. If you look at him at Christmas you’d say he needs to go back to two miles. I’m just wondering should he go back to hurdles. He’s won the JLT, so should you go for the Ryanair? But looking how he jumped the other day I think that’s enough reason to put him back over hurdles. We know he jumps hurdles well, we know in a Champion Hurdle there will be plenty of pace to bring his stamina into play and I think he’d be easier to ride in a Champion Hurdle - a lot easier than he would be in the Ryanair. Could he just not have been ready (at Christmas)? Maybe he just needed it. He’s been fine at home, I was very happy with his work last week. If he works like that again, we’ll leave the decision for the moment, but I’d say he’s 60-40 for the Champion Hurdle.
Melon didn’t run well the last day but we put a hood on him. We’ll take all the gear off at Cheltenham and see what he can do in the Champion Hurdle. Wicklow Brave’s in good shape and he will have a crack at the Champion Hurdle.
I think Let’s Dance is getting there. We’ll see what way the Stayers’ and the Mares’ are working out, I really don’t know what I’m going to do with her but she’ll run in one of those. Vroum Vroum Mag goes for the Mares’ Hurdle. She’s in great shape. I’m thinking the hurdle for Benie Des Dieux as well.
National Hunt Chase – Rathvinden (14/1)
I’m wondering whether to go the four-miler with him. He could go any trip. He could go RSA, but I’m thinking maybe four-miler is the way we will go with him.
Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle – Next Destination (4/1)
Samcro looks an Irish banker for Cheltenham, but what can we do? We can't just run them all in the other races. We all have to get there, too. Horses have a habit of letting you down, not that I'm putting any pressure on Gordon! I'm aiming Next Destination at the Ballymore. That's probably where he should go. It was a messy race in Naas the last day and I think a stronger gallop will suit.
Al Boum Photo looks an RSA type to me. He could go for the JLT, but I’d be more tempted by the RSA I think. It was a good run in third the last day, I’m very happy with him. Invitation Only’s another one where you are looking RSA or JLT for him.
Douvan is being aimed at the Champion Chase, if he gets there. It’s not that long ago we were told we couldn’t train him for the year, but he’s doing everything right at the moment. I have no plans to run him in anything else. I don’t think he needs to school, I might give him a pop before but if I don’t want to I won’t. I think he’s good enough.
It was very disappointing when we found him lame and he wasn’t right. Then it was hugely disappointing when we thought he wasn’t going to run for the whole season. We’re coming back, we’re not back yet, but we’re coming back. Within a week or 10 days he was sound, when we thought he shouldn’t have been sound. We had to reevaluate so we said let’s try walking. Then trotting. And we just kept upping his work and he was proving sound and staying sound. More tests and more results followed but sometimes it’s like you’re running a hospital when you’re running a training yard and you just have to kick on. We haven’t had any setbacks since.
There was obviously something there but maybe it’s something he can live with. Maybe when he runs it’ll come again, we don’t know, but the morning he got the injury I thought ‘this is awesome this bit of work’. Whether he’ll get back to that type of work, I don’t know, but his work is certainly good enough at the moment.
I said afterwards, I don’t want to see him work like that again. He can save it for the racecourse. I was thinking at the time he might be hard to beat this season. Then he was lame the following morning. I’m not sure whether he’ll have a racecourse gallop or not. He’s been away a couple of time already, but it’s day-to-day with him.
I just hope I can get him back to the sort of form he was in back in November. We’ve hard work to do still, we’ve got to get there. I’ll have to put the gun to his head at some stage, in the next few days. Any time a horse has an injury you worry about a re-injury. But he’s been good so far. He’ll have to be sound and working well.
To me Min is unbeaten this year. He’s doing all the right things, whether he’s good enough I don’t know. Altior beat him in the Supreme two years ago and I guess it would be hard to turn that form around.
Weatherbys Champion Bumper
We have Hollowgraphic and Blackbow has galloped himself into the picture. Squadron Commander and Tornado Flyer both won well and we put them away. Carefully Selected galloped himself into the picture at Naas on Sunday. It might be too soon to go to Cheltenham, but we'll see. When I said to Patrick (Mullins) that win puts him on the list, he said 'he was on my list all the time'. He obviously has more faith in him than I did. To me, what Hollowgraphic did in Punchestown was a very good performance. He has to come back to the track as we've minded him to go to Cheltenham. Blackbow has produced two very good performances."
Un De Sceaux’s done tremendously well. He’s only had two runs this season and he’s in great condition. We’ve plenty to work on still for Cheltenham, which is surprising. You saw him there this morning, he’s always very stylish. Everything is going well with him. Anything can change but we’re aiming for the Ryanair. I think they’re more worried about snow at Cheltenham than soft ground, but soft would be fine for him.
Djakadam’s been disappointing this year. But this could be an open Gold Cup. There’s a feeling that he should go back for the Ryanair and that might happen. I feel he should go for the Gold Cup, but other people might feel he should have a crack at the Ryanair. His form hasn’t been good enough on the track, he certainly hasn’t performed like he has other seasons.
Augusta Kate’s in the Stayers’ Hurdle and I thought that run behind Presenting Percy would be good enough to let her take her chance in that. We’ll keep the Mares’ Hurdle as a back up.
Bacardys also goes for the Stayers’ Hurdle. We’ll just keep his maiden over fences for another season. He was a short price for the Ballymore and we just think he’ll take his chance in the Stayers’ Hurdle.
Penhill’s going to go for the Stayers’ Hurdle. All his work has been good and the aim all year has been to try and get him to Cheltenham and Punchestown. We knew we wouldn’t have time to get a run into him and it’s a tough task to try and win that race without a run. If he runs well he can go to Punchestown. Sometimes it can be hard to step up to open class from novice class, but his work is good.
Trull House Stud Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle – Laurina (Evens), Salsaretta
Laurina looks really good. We brought her to Tramore just because the race was there and it suited her. She is top-class and if they had a mares' chase at Cheltenham I'd be aiming her at it as she's a big, scopey filly. She's one we're looking forward to getting over there.
Salsaretta, people keep asking about her. She didn’t even go to Clonmel the other day so I doubt she’ll go to Cheltenham.
JCB Triumph Hurdle
Mr Adjudicator goes for the Triumph Hurdle. He had a bit of a cold last week but he seems to be over that now and he's as fit as a flea. Saldier did everything right the other day and he goes for the Triumph, as does Stormy Ireland.
Mr Adjudicator has done it (at Grade One level) and he has that Flat form as well. Saldier and Stormy Ireland wouldn't have the same racing experience, never mind jumping experience.
It was a huge performance from Stormy Ireland in Limerick. I don't know what the time was and the ground was very bad, but she just kept galloping and pulling out more."
Killultagh Vic goes for the Gold Cup and I’m very happy with him. I wouldn’t have been betting against him jumping the last, he looked like he had the momentum and was going away. There’s no stamina concern, not with his pedigree. He won a three-mile hurdle against Thistlecrack. He seemed fine afterwards and he’s schooled well since. He was just too careful. It looked like he hit it and threw his legs out to the left and unbalanced himself. Hopefully he’ll be alright on the day.
Total Recall’s aim has been the Grand National but I think he’ll need to go for the Gold Cup. We were going to go for the Bobbyjo but it was just too soon. He’s a relaxed horse, he jumps very economically so I think that would suit him around Cheltenham in a Gold Cup. We’ll get him switched off, he won’t be using too much energy so I think he deserves a crack at it. He was free last time, it just happened that he jumped one or two hurdles well and he got free, but we’ll be able to hide him in a Gold Cup. There’ll be some pace in that whereas there wasn’t in that hurdle. We’ve had the Gold Cup in the back of our minds as it looks fairly open.
I think Bachasson’s connections are keen to go to Cheltenham but it will be tough enough for him in the Gold Cup. He’s a fantastic jumper but whether he can carry that weight over that trip. He's aiming there.