Patrick Mullins: 'Allaho can evoke memory of pivotal day in Dad's career'
Leopardstown, Christmas 1995. A Welsh Term gelding, ridden by his 40-year-old amateur rider/trainer/owner, wins the 4yo bumper by the length of Grafton Street.
Made all, unchallenged. Wither Or Which is suddenly one of the most valuable racehorses on this island. His owner/trainer is faced with a dilemma. Be a trader and sell to England for the big bucks, or be a trainer and keep the horse in the yard for smaller money?
My father decided he wanted to be a trainer, not a trader. He sold Wither Or Which to stay in the yard, and on top of that put a clause in that he would keep the ride in the Cheltenham Bumper. No Richard Dunwoody in the saddle please: I'll ride him and take the blame if it goes wrong.
Ballsy enough! The horse went to Cheltenham, Mr WP Mullins rode him to beat the likes of Swan, Dunwoody, Manning and Johnson and the rest is history. A trainer not a trader.
Every Christmas dinner I hear that story, or a version of it at least! That bumper was a pivotal point in my father's career; had Wither Or Which not delivered, the story could be quite different. Florida Pearl was bought on the wave it created. Indeed, Wither Or Which is still around Closutton, aged 27. One favour deserves another.
The bumper on Stephen's Day is fiendishly difficult to win and always fiercely contested.
Florida Pearl won it in 1996, with Jim Nash on board, but it took until Bacardys in 2015 for Closutton to win it again. Champagne Fever even got turned over by Thomas Edison in 2011. Black Bow won it last year and we are taking the wraps off another exciting recruit this year.
Allaho is a tall, athletic and strong French bred who was second in a hurdle in Auteuil in March on his only run - not the usual profile for one of our bumper horses.
Luckily for me, since he ran as a 4yo in France he can revert to bumpers, whereas if he had run as a 3yo in a hurdle race then he would be barred. Most people got their presents Christmas morning, I've had to wait to Stephen's evening to get a hold of mine!
His presence has turned many a head since walking off the lorry, and while the stakes may not be as high as 1995, he is our first runner for Cheveley Park Stud and so is an important runner today.
Gordon has unleashed the deeply impressive Malone Road and Envoi Allen for them and we need to measure up but the All Ireland was never won in the spring.
Holly Conte, Allaho's work rider, is married to a French man and made a comment lately about Allaho that almost caused a divorce! I'm hoping he can follow in Florida Pearl, Bacardys and Black Bows victorious hoofprints.
Ruby is travelling down to Limerick, the first time he hasn't been at Kempton or Leopardstown since he was an amateur in 1996. The reason? Getabird. This horse has shown alluring glimpses of his immense ability; he destroyed Grade One winners Mengli Khan and Draconien either side of succumbing to his first experience of the Cheltenham atmosphere, but also displayed blinding flashes of his insecurities.
He can be keen and he can jump right. He's not quite Paul Pogba but he does take managing and Aimee Morrissey - Solskjaer-esque and a baby-faced assassin in more ways than one - does a fantastic job keeping him sound of mind and limb at home. His fencing is low and slick, unusual for an ex-point-to-pointer, and I think he is right up to the standard of the likes of our previous winners of this race such as Bellshill, Sir Des Champs and Outlander. We'll be disappointed if he can't win his first Grade 1 here.
La Sorelita Leopardstown (1.10)
Getabird Limerick (2.0)
Allaho Leopardstown (3.30)