Wednesday 20 March 2019

Patrick Mullins: Faugheen can write Festival lore with Champion showing

Cheekpieces added in attempt to rekindle old spark

Getabird, with Sonny Carey up, and Wicklow Brave, with Patrick Mullins on board, on the gallops at Prestbury Park yesterday. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Getabird, with Sonny Carey up, and Wicklow Brave, with Patrick Mullins on board, on the gallops at Prestbury Park yesterday. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Patrick Mullins

Have you ever been part of the 'Roar' that sends the Supreme Novice field thundering down to the first faster than lightning?

Did you see Sprinter Sacre catching the impossible dream, or Hurricane Fly furiously clawing his way to redemption up the Cheltenham hill?

What about Kauto Star and Denman's titanic battles that shook the Cotswolds, or Vautour morphing into "a gazelle in equine form"?

Were you there for Moscow Flyer's Russian roulette with the fences or Paul Carberry's desperate last throw of the dice aboard Harchibald beside Hardy Eustace?

Can you tell your children about Dawn Run's refusal to accept her impending defeat in '86 or are you one of the precious few who saw Arkle and Mill House's iconic black-and-white joust in '64?

Were you in the 21 Club after Cousin Vinny landed the bumper... and if yes, could you tell me what went on?! On second thoughts, perhaps some things are better left unsaid.

Just like when Alice fell down Lewis Carroll's famous rabbit hole, we are all on the verge of entering a wonderland for the next four days.

However, some will leave feeling like Renton after that infamous Trainspotting toilet scene!

The calm before the storm is about to break. Strap in and buckle up. It's going to be one hell of a ride.


Getabird leads the troops into battle, with Sharjah as his lieutenant.

The softer ground has to be to his benefit as a horse who is proven on it and stays further.

He is unbeaten for us and the turn of foot he showed the last day, even when lugging me around over his shoulder, was breath-taking.

He hurdled very slickly for an ex-point-to-pointer and a repeat of his Punchestown form will put him bang there when it matters.

Sharjah is a horse who needs a strong gallop on dry ground (and no shadows!). His race at Christmas was eight seconds faster than in February despite both being on seemingly identical tracks, which shows how different a race it was. He represents cracking each-way value if the ground rides better than is being reported.

Footpad is my banker of the week in the Arkle. His jumping has been exemplary, he handles the track, the atmosphere and is the best horse in the race.

I think Petit Mouchoir and Saint Calvados will make this a fascinating contest to watch but for me, Footpad is the best steeplechaser in the race and I'll be disappointed if he can't maintain his unbeaten chasing record.

The Champion Hurdle is a very strange race this year. Faugheen is the greying champion trying to wrest back the hurdling crown off the youthful Buveur D'Air.

We have tried a few different things at home with him lately, a bit like Nichols Canyon last year, and added cheekpieces in a bid to get him to race with the zest of old.

I don't mean to be unkind, as Liam Gallagher sang, but if Faugheen turns up there isn't a horse here who will touch him. It's a big if; two letters that say a thousand words.

He doesn't go into the breach alone. Melon is working better than ever and we have removed the hood that backfired on him the last day. He needs to improve but still has the profile to do just that.

I am reunited with the enigmatic Wicklow Brave. He wears blinkers for only the second time over hurdles and the first time produced an explosive defeat of My Tent Or Yours, form that looks well in this race.

He almost didn't start in this race last year (and in that Punchestown victory) but if he consents to jump off on time, he could snatch good place money.

Which leaves Yorkhill, that puzzle within an enigma wrapped up in half a tonne of stubborn chestnut thoroughbred.

He has schooled well over hurdles recently and if he puts his best foot forward he will certainly make things interesting. Our squad this year has more personalities than 'The A Team', it would seem.

We deploy Benie Des Dieux to try and finally topple our ex-sweetheart Apple's Jade.

This wonder mare swatted aside one of our finest warriors in Nichols Canyon earlier in the campaign and she will be exceedingly difficult to dethrone.

However, I think we got our tactics wrong in this race last year and gave Apple's too much rope up front.

We think Benie can be every bit as good as Vroum Vroum Mag and Limini and expect her to serve it up to Apple's Jade.

Patrick's Picks

1.30 Getabird

2.10 Footpad

3.30 Faugheen

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