Mullins holds fire on big guns until ground gives
Champion trainer Willie Mullins is awaiting a definite change in the weather, and a resultant return to easier conditions underfoot, before launching high-profile horses such as Grade One winners Hurricane Fly, Mikael D'Haguenet and Golden Silver back over jumps.
Holding fire with most of his talented team, Mullins paraded that celebrated trio and a host of potential chasing stars at his Closutton base yesterday, to mark the launch of a €500,000 sponsorship deal between Boylesports and Punchestown racecourse.
The Dundalk-based firm are backing both the Champion Chase for the next three renewals and the Grade Two Tied Cottage Chase on January 30.
The Boylesports.com Champion Chase is expected to be worth €140,000 on the first day of the 2011 festival (May 3) and Golden Silver, which defeated Forpadydeplasterer and Sizing Europe last term, will again target the race.
"Golden Silver is in good form and Paul Townend gets on particularly well with him. They may be back for the Fortria Chase at Navan on November 7," said Mullins, as Boylesports offered 8/1 on the French-bred doubling up in their flagship promotion. However it's only 5/1 with the firm that Mullins will manage to break his record of 12 scorers at the festival next May, representing a strong indication of how highly they rate the Closutton stable's firepower for the seasonal wind-up.
Visiting the chock-full yard yesterday, for a schooling session featuring the towering Mikael D'Haguenet -- sidelined by injury throughout last season -- and another classy French import Arvika Legionnaire, which Ruby Walsh partnered in turn, was an eye-opener.
This pair and rew recruit Blazing Tempo, which was a smart bumper and hurdles winner for her previous trainer Willie Austin, seemed to jump with alacrity for the champion jockey over a total of two introductory hurdles and six fences.
"Mikael D'Haguenet has had no problems since he came back in and will be starting back next month over fences, having already been placed over them in France. Arvika Legionnaire has matured well over the summer and is another I'm looking forward to novice chasing," said Mullins.
"Hurricane Fly is in good order as well. Hopefully he can retain the Rabobank Champion Hurdle at the Punchestown festival and the plan at the moment is to go there with him next month for the Dobbins and Madigans Hurdle."
A trio of talented greys, Thousand Stars, Quel Esprit and Flat Out, are in the pipeline for the novice chasing division, in which the Mullins battalions look particularly strong, but we will have to wait on Cheltenham and Punchestown heroine Quevega as she's still in pre-training.
"Because the dry weather this autumn has held us up, we have only done about six bits of work so far. The lads say they are quite well forward, though, and as soon as we have some decent rain we will be getting them racing again," Mullins explained.