Richard Forristal: Wily Mullins can make it two out of two
Willie Mullins (above) saddles just two runners on tomorrow's National Hunt card at Tramore, and it would be no surprise if the Carlow-based maestro were to leave with a pair of winners.
In the opening Tramore-racecourse.com Maiden Hurdle, Mullins is represented by Drive On Regardless, a horse that has been a beaten favourite on six occasions since winning his second bumper two years ago.
As such, the Shernazar gelding is somewhat unreliable, but this is as weak a maiden as Mullins could have hoped to find. Of Drive On Regardless's 17 opponents, not one has managed a first-three finish of late, and the suspicion is that he should be good enough to win if he reproduces anything close to his best form.
In the first of three runs to date this season, the seven-year-old made a satisfactory start, taking third on bottomless ground over two and a half miles at Fairyhouse in December.
He then ran too bad to be true when a well-supported 7/4 shot at tomorrow's venue. For all that he frustrates, such a lifeless effort is out of keeping with his generally consistent profile.
With some of Mullins' horses under a cloud at the time, Drive On Regardless subsequently spent over three months on the sidelines, before running what could reasonably be described as a gallant second at Cork a fortnight ago.
If you weren't familiar with his history, that might have seemed the perfect prep, so he deserves the benefit of the doubt given the standard of opposition now.
Drive On Regardless will be partnered by Mullins' son Patrick, who is also due to steer Clonard Lad for the Closutton team in the bumper. This is a more competitive event than the maiden hurdle, with Whats On The Menu having twice been placed around the tight Tramore turns already.
Persian Gayle, the mount of Katie Walsh, has also made the frame around the course, and a proven ability to handle the Waterford track's unique camber is not to be underestimated. Nonetheless, Clonard Lad has the most promising profile.
Third in a good point-to-point on his debut in December, the Presenting gelding made little impact on his first start for Mullins in what was a decent bumper at Gowran Park in March. From there, though, he improved, only just failing to get up at Downpatrick. If he can build on that again, he will be a formidable challenger.