Horse-by-horse guide: Willie Mullins on his Cheltenham Festival team
Posted in: Cheltenham Festival Tips
Appreciate It (Supreme Novices’ Hurdle)
“I had him down as a stayer so the fact that he has that turn of foot is good too. He owes me - he destroyed a pair of sheepskin gloves of mine on Saturday evening! But we’re here with him, and his two performances have been good so far, so we’re pleased with him.
“What he did at Christmas was terrific, and I’m wondering whether he was as good in himself at Dublin or was it a better race? He did what he had to when he had to and we all thought he was in trouble turning for home, but when Ballyadam came to him he got the job done – which was the sign of a good horse, and he’s been in great form since.”
Blue Lord (Supreme Novices’ Hurdle)
“We could see Blue Lord as well. After he won his maiden at Punchestown I was thinking two and a half for him, but when I ran him at Naas he was too free.
“I think his jumping is good enough and maybe we’ll just have a bolder approach to how we ride him. I know connections have entered him in the County Hurdle this morning, but I’m not sure he has the expertise to jump with them in the County. He might have the ability but I’m not sure he has the technique yet and I’d rather have him with the novices.”
Energumene (Sporting Life Arkle Trophy Novices' Chase)
“I’m looking forward to running him. We bought him out of an English point-to-point and we always knew he could gallop, but to gallop and jump the way he does over fences is really exciting.
“You buy horses hoping they can do something like that, but it usually takes two or three years to find out by the time you’ve won a bumper and gone over hurdles before chasing, and they don’t all turn out like that, so it’s nice to have one like him.
“I don’t think it’s essential [for him to lead] - he goes his own gallop, but we never said he needs to make the running and we won’t be hanging back. We have no problem with him staying, it was whether he’s fast enough for two miles – so that’s why we’ve tried him over two miles. He’s had two runs and he seems to have plenty of speed.”
Energumene - still unbeaten over fences
🏇 Three races
🥇 Three wins
🏆 Irish Arkle
A stunning performance from Energumene who laughs at his rivals in the Irish Arkle to complete a treble fort @WillieMullinsNH & @PTownend at @LeopardstownRC - a 1-2-3 for the trainer too 👏 pic.twitter.com/iW43FrRpah
— Racing TV (@RacingTV) February 6, 2021
Franco de Port (Sporting Life Arkle Trophy Novices’ Chase)
“I think he will run here. I know the Irish Arkle is two miles one furlong and one hundred yards and the Cheltenham version is probably a furlong and a half shorter, but that will probably be run at a very fast pace. It’s the obvious thing to me, that we have one horse at the front and the other to hopefully do what he did at Christmas if the race falls apart.”
Blackbow (Sporting Life Arkle Trophy Novices’ Chase or Marsh Novices’ Chase)
“I’m wondering whether I should go for a longer trip with him. I’m not sure if he’s an out-and-out two-miler at this stage of his career. I’m going to do some thinking about the Marsh.“
Sharjah (Champion Hurdle)
"I’m happy with him and maybe that race [the Irish Champion Hurdle] just comes too soon for him after Christmas. It’s funny he’s done that twice [disappointing in the Irish Champion Hurdle].
"Patrick [Mullins] has his own way of riding him, he likes to sit and wait and he’ll probably do that. The better the ground the better the chance and if he can adjust his tactics a bit, it might make the difference.”
James du Berlais (Champion Hurdle)
“He had a very busy season in France last year, and was bought by Simon [Munir] and Isaac [Soude] as a novice chaser, but it’s a long time to wait so we put him in training. I was happy to run him somewhere and I’m not going to run him in the Stayers’ Hurdle. I said ‘let's run him in the Champion Hurdle and let him have a go there’, rather than do nothing the whole spring.
“I was delighted to see he’s rated 167 on English ratings, so that puts him in there with a shot. It’s going to be a true run race and that will suit.”
Saldier (Champion Hurdle)
“He’s another I entered in the County Hurdle this morning, but his aim all season has been the Champion Hurdle and both me and Rich [Ricci] would like to see him end up in there and we’re pressing every button to get him there.”
Lord Royal (National Hunt Chase)
“He ran a cracker at Navan last time out. He’d been disappointing every time since he won his maiden hurdle [at Clonmel], but he’s best held on to. I was delighted with the way he stayed on from the last [at Navan], and whoever rides him will have more or less have the same instructions.
“I think whoever rides him needs to hold onto him a little longer, and over three miles and six furlongs you should be able to go a little slower pace-wise and that will suit him. He’s a beautiful jumper and I think he’ll improve on better ground – he’s not one to give up on and when we get it right he’s one to win a big race down the line.”
Gaillard Du Mesnil (Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle)
“He hasn’t done much wrong. We ran over two miles and six furlongs last time because we didn’t want to go back to two miles with him. I prefer this distance, and I think the pace there will suit us. He’s a horse that I like a lot and I think he’s improving all the time.
“Danny [Mullins] was very good on Stattler [at Leopardstown last month]. He got the fractions right and nearly stole the race himself, but when push came to shove Gaillard Du Mesnil showed what he’s made of and hopefully he’ll be able to do that at Cheltenham too.
Monkfish (Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase)
“It’s been so far so good with Monkfish, and I’m just hoping he can come back and do the same at Cheltenham. He had a gruelling race there last year [when winning the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle] and I just hope he doesn’t remember that.
“Sometimes horses can, but he’s done everything right this season and done it well within his scope. He’s good at home at the moment and he’s one that I’m really looking forward to at Cheltenham.”
🐠 Monkfish - what an incredible talent
🏇 Eight races
🥇 Six wins
🏆 Three-time Grade One hero
✅ Unbeaten over fences
The brilliant Monkfish tastes more Grade One glory for @WillieMullinsNH & @PTownend in the Flogas Novice Chase at @LeopardstownRC #DublinRacingFestival pic.twitter.com/AqMwhOS6Sy
— Racing TV (@RacingTV) February 7, 2021
Chacun Pour Soi (Champion Chase)
"He’s been in great form since Leopardstown and does everything right at home, so fingers crossed. He had his troubles early on in his career but now everything has settled down he just goes up the gallop every morning and does his work.
“We want to get there and see what he can do at Cheltenham. He is one of the ones if you had to pick the top five or six travelling over, you’d say he is one that you are really hoping can bring his ‘A’ game there.”
Kilcruit (Champion Bumper)
“He ran a terrific race [at Leopardstown in February] and I was as stunned as you were as I thought the grey horse Ramillies would improve a lot, but I was stunned when I saw Patrick [Mullins] coming and never moving on him.
“He’s a tall horse but he’s very light-framed and I don’t train him that much at all, and Patrick has huge confidence in him as well. Whatever feel he gets is the one we all saw coming down the straight at Leopardstown. He’s been very good since, and he takes very little training.”
“I think Ramillies is the horse who’s probably got huge improvement in him. He’s a big strong horse, I’m not sure I’ve seen a rib on him yet but I’m hoping to see one before we get to Cheltenham.
“Cool Jet ran a terrific race after disappointing me at Leopardstown [over Christmas], and then Jody [Townend] got a great tune out of him down at Thurles, so he’s a horse who’s possibly on the improve as well.
“We’ve a lot of fillies who have run well. Brooklynn Glory has won two and ran well the other day at Leopardstown. Grangee came and won there against all the odds but I think she’s going to improve as well.
“Brandy Love was very impressive at Fairyhouse [in December] and perhaps did too much too soon at Leopardstown and she could be a big runner in that race because of the way it will be run – so we’ve a nice team going there.”
Asterion Forlonge (Marsh Novices’ Chase)
“He is the one that I’m aiming at this point in time. We might decide to stay at home for the Ryanair Chase at Fairyhouse, but maybe with the type of season he’s having he could do both because he’s a hardy horse.
“We haven’t seen his best over fences yet. Things haven’t worked out but there’s a big performance in him. I’ll chat to the Donnellys and we’ll see but I’d say the Marsh would be his race for him.”
“The three of them have similar tactics/methods of running which might backfire against us a little bit but at the moment I would say that’s their number one call unless we change at the last minute.
“I always thought Allaho was going to be a three-mile out-and-out staying chaser the way he gallops and jumps, but his sire [No Risk At All] probably holds him back a little bit from having huge stamina, so he may just have a higher cruising speed at a shorter distance. He jumps very well and if you can match the two possibly over that shorter trip might suit him.
“Nothing has shown up with Min [after the Dublin Chase] and I’m not really worried. He just missed one fence down the back and took off too soon. Patrick [Mullins] did say he felt he wasn’t galloping and maybe the pace was too fast for him over that shorter trip and we shouldn’t have run him over the shorter trip – so once things weren’t happening we were happy to pull up.
“Looking at the re-run of the race at Christmas, I think Melon will probably have to end up there and we’ll have to adjust tactics for the day. We looked at Christmas and the race the other day and he doesn’t enjoy being held up. He much preferred what he was doing at Christmas [tracking the leaders] and possibly the trip was too long [last time] so that’s why we will probably go for the shorter trip.”
— Racing TV (@RacingTV) January 27, 2021
Kemboy (Stayers' Hurdle or Cheltenham Gold Cup)
"We have to look at every option and I want to chat to connections, but we know he stays and hurdles are no problem to him, so he had to be entered anyhow. He seems fine after the Irish Gold Cup and we’re happy with him. We are happy with the whole team.”
Bacardys (Stayers' Hurdle)
"I just wonder if it is a shade too short for him, but there isn’t another race for him, but we would be delighted if he can be placed again.”
Hook Up (Dawn Run Mares' Novices' Hurdle)
“She ran a cracker at Leopardstown last time. She came from a long way back to finish well and now looking at her against mares, that was a big performance.”
Gauloise (Dawn Run Mares' Novices' Hurdle)
“I’m not sure we had the right tactics for her at Fairyhouse. We may have given away the initiative but maybe we learned a lot more about her there. I’m hoping that she’ll come back to form with more forceful tactics.”
Glens of Antrim (Dawn Run Mares' Novices' Hurdle)
“I think she hasn’t shown us her best yet and she has the pedigree to go close in that race.”
French Aseel (Triumph Hurdle)
“Where he came from at Ellmarie Holden’s is only down the road, so he only had to move about 20 miles. They have a similar type of woodchip gallop to what we have, so a lot of things are the same and he’s settled in here well.
“I took the view that I didn’t want to run him in the Dublin Racing Festival because he’d only just arrived here, and to instead wait and go to Cheltenham.
“He started his work three weeks ago doing little bits and now he’s up to full work and I’m very happy with what he’s done. He was very fit the day he won, he jumped very well, so I’m going to take that all on trust and just have him cherry ripe for the day.
“He looked a super horse on the day [when winning at Leopardstown over Christmas], so we’re giving him every chance not to fluff his lines before it and appear there on the day.”
👀 French Aseel is just in a different league to his rivals in the opener on Day Two of the Christmas Festival at @LeopardstownRC - an armchair ride for @DenisFORegan #LRCChristmas pic.twitter.com/iMoVVgeZpc
— Racing TV (@RacingTV) December 27, 2020
Stattler (Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle)
“I think he’s an ideal type. He jumps, he gallops he stays. He’s had a few runs and I’m happy he’s got what you need for the Albert Bartlett and we’re pleased with him and how he’s been since. “
N’Golo (Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle)
“I don’t know what to do with N’Golo. I’d love to get some good ground and you can probably get good ground on the last day. We’ve entered him in handicaps this morning alongside every novice and he probably wants a bit of a trip on good ground.
“He has the profile of having enough runs under his belt – things might be happening a little slower for there too which might help him as he’s had a couple of bad runs, so we’ll see.”
Al Boum Photo (Cheltenham Gold Cup)
“He is in great shape and worked well last week. He has a big bit of work coming up this week. He is uncomplicated and very nice to train.
“We think he is in a good position and any time Paul [Townened] has ridden him he has been happy with him. I am happy with what I am seeing. There are no negatives at this time and there have been no setbacks. The only surprising thing was that I thought I had him straighter for Tramore but when I analysed it all out, he had such a long break from last year’s Gold Cup and no spring campaign as such. It was a long time back to Tramore and he probably should have had one more piece of work before but he got through it and we learnt from it. He is in great shape going to Cheltenham this year.”
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