Sunday 21 January 2018

Patrick Mullins: Our horses just don't seem to be firing for whatever reason

Patrick Mullins and David Casey lead in Carter McKay and Yorkhill respectively on the gallops at Cheltenham earlier this week. Photo: Sportsfile
Patrick Mullins and David Casey lead in Carter McKay and Yorkhill respectively on the gallops at Cheltenham earlier this week. Photo: Sportsfile

Patrick Mullins

Sometimes the best laid plans unravel in front of your eyes, and it was a shock that the bullet-proof Douvan didn't deliver what everyone knows he can, but that's racing.

Douvan was lame behind yesterday evening and will go for an MRI in the coming days, so that might be some explanation as to why he just wasn't himself from the off - he just didn't jump and travel as we're accustomed to seeing.

Our horses just don't seem to be firing for whatever reason; other years Willie has always said we have had such fantastic preparation, whereas this year nothing has gone quite right, and when you're going to Cheltenham against the best, everything needs to be spot on.

You're entitled to nothing at the Festival, you don't stand up expecting to win anything; that's not the way racing works and it looks like we're going to have to take the rough with the smooth.

While Bacardys was nearly brought to a standstill in yesterday's opener, Ruby was squeezing him going past the stands the first time around and that's not like him, but they're all back in one piece so we live to fight another day.

We've always said the last few years have been a perfect storm and we've been incredibly lucky.

Cheltenham isn't easy but it's only halfway, so hopefully we can get some score on the board and it'll all be forgotten if we have a few big winners over the next two days.

The Stayers Hurdle (3.30) has eluded us down the years but we're making a three-pronged attack with Ruby taking the mount on Nichols Canyon, who is stepping up significantly in trip and is as good as any horse in the race with seven Grade 1 wins already to his name.

We felt he would have struggled in this year's Champion Hurdle so we're moving up to three miles in hope more than expectation, while our Shaneshill absolutely loves it around Cheltenham.

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Second in his three runs at the Festival (Champion Bumper, Supreme Novices' and RSA Chase), he always brings his A game and his laid-back racing style gives him outstanding place claims.

The ground is key to Clondaw Warrior and the going will suit. His Christmas form behind Vroum Vroum Mag definitely brings him into contention - I'd put a line through his last run because of the going, and all three have legitimate chances to make the frame.

Unowhatimeanharry brings Festival-winning form to the table and is a worthy favourite having been foot-perfect all year, but if he's not up to his very best we can push him to the pin of his collar, with Shaneshill marginally the best.

In the previous race, we hope Un De Sceaux can follow in Vautour's footsteps and win our second Ryanair Chase (2.50). The good ground might have caught him out in last year's Champion Chase whereas 2m 5f should be ideal and he's been settling better in his races this year which is a big help.

I think he's the best horse in the race, he has won an Arkle here and you have to remember it was Sprinter Sacre, a horse of a lifetime, who beat him here last year, and while Empire of Dirt could be anything and will be hard to beat, our fella should have the extra class.

I rode Yorkhill in his two Bumper wins and he's an absolute monster. His jumping can be a little sticky but he's good when he warms up and I'd be disappointed if he was beaten in the JLT (1.30) as he's coming here in great form and was brilliant last year when winning the Neptune.

Disko was very impressive when he won the PJ Moriarty Chase so I'd be most worried about him, while Isleofhopendreams is running off a much higher mark and I'm not sure if he's as good going left-handed in the Pertemps Final (2.10).

His best form is going right-handed so Ruby will have a bit of a job on his hands and he might find it difficult. Tobefair is exactly the type of magical story which makes jump racing special, and if he could win it would bring the house down.

Let's Dance is a second-season novice who ran here last year so she has a huge advantage experience-wise in the Mares' Novices' Hurdle (4.50) and beat the geldings the last day, and while Ruby has plumped for her, she'll have to step up to get to the level of Airlie Beach.

Airlie Beach won the Grade 1 Royal Bond against the geldings and her form is superior to Let's Dance. She's unbeaten and her dam Screaming Witness was my first ride on the racetrack 12 years ago so I'll be rooting for her and it could be a winner for Paul Townend.

Patrick's Picks

1.30: Yorkhill (Nap)

2.10: Tobefair

2.50: Un De Sceaux

3.30: Shaneshill

4.10: Starchitect

4.50: Airlie Beach

5.30: Mall Dini

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