Mullins to show strong hand with Faugheen, Laurina and Melon
Champion trainer Willie Mullins has confirmed that three of his stables' top hurdlers, Faugheen, Laurina and Melon, will all go novice chasing this winter season.
Mullins revealed the news as he showed off his stable's fire-power at a media day to launch the new jumps season at his Closutton, Carlow, base yesterday.
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The trio will give Mullins a strong hand in the novice chasing ranks as he builds towards the big prizes at Cheltenham, Aintree, Fairyhouse and Punchestown next spring.
"I should have sent Faugheen novice chasing this time last year, that was down to me. He came to us all those years ago," said Mullins of the 11-year-old 'Machine', "to be a chaser, he'd already won a point-to-point.
"But he was so good over the hurdles that we just stuck with it, and then he lost those 20 months at the height of his career to injury.
"Due to the injury, Faugheen has few enough miles on the clock, and how he runs will tell us where he goes in the second half of the season."
Laurina is going chasing because ex-stable jockey Ruby Walsh pushed the plan. "Ruby has told us a couple of times that she will be a better hurdler than chaser - and he usually gets these things right."
As for Melon, the three best runs of his career have all come over two miles of the Old Course at Cheltenham, when finishing second in a Supreme Novices Hurdle and second twice in a Champion Hurdle.
Two miles of the Old Course is the distance of the Arkle chase at the Festival next March. "I like to have a good horse for the Arkle," added Mullins. "It's a race I love to target and it is always won by a good horse." Sounds like he believes Melon could be just the dish for it.
Mullins doesn't have much in common with movie star Dustin Hoffman - except right now the great trainer is a Rain Man, hoping the heavens open as they usually do in an Irish winter.
"I'm 63 now and I've never known a winter like last year - there were only four meetings all season where the word 'heavy' appeared in the going description. I kept saying to myself 'it's Ireland, the rain has to come, but it never did'. Please God we'll get a proper winter this time."
Because of last year, the Mullins yard is also well-stocked with younger horses of all kinds, with bumper horses that barely ran or didn't run at all in 2018/19. He has horses that are still novice hurdlers but could go novice chasing as well, having basically lost last year. And he has novice chasers from last year that didn't win a race and so can go again at that level.
"My horses are going really well over the last ten days as they can get now get their feet right into the turf on the gallops after that heavy rain of about ten days ago. If we just get normal rain in a normal Irish winter, we'll be fine."