Patrick Mullins: Footpad has the extra gear to get off to a flier
Racing at Leopardstown makes my Christmas. Since Santa left the building, this is what the excitement is all about. This is the first major festival of the winter season and its results set up the narrative for the spring festivals. It's a fantastic blend of country meeting city and the atmosphere is always special - much different to racing in the summer and spring.
On Christmas Day all of our horses which are entered for the week rode out, a little more than 80. So for everyone in the yard, it's flat out. The lads choose to have Christmas Day or New Year's Day off. People talk of the jockeys and trainers making sacrifices and being busy, but the lads in the yard work even harder. You really need to love what you do.
We are very lucky to have fabulous jockeys and fantastic owners, but our staff are just as excellent and just as important to our yard.
Dick Dowling, John Codd, Virginnie Bascop and Rachel Robins are the head lads and all are invaluable to the cause.
Everyone here is buzzing to finally get the ball rolling after a week of no racing. We'll be taking the wrapping off Faugheen, Yorkhill, Min, Nichols Canyon, Footpad, maybe even Killultagh Vic too. Throw in Sizing John, Apple's Jade, Death Duty and Mengli Khan and how could you not go racing this Christmas to see these superstars in the flesh?
Footpad is our flag-bearer today. He was a high-class hurdler, just shy of the very best and his steeplechasing debut in Navan was a joy to behold. I've never seen a novice make it look so easy and everything was poised, measured and slick.
He appears a complete natural. His fourth in last year's Champion Hurdle puts him way ahead of any of his rivals and I'm really looking forward to watching him fly around the best steeplechase track there is.
Death Duty is an intriguing opponent. I didn't think he had the gears that he showed when he defeated Rathvinden in a slowly run Grade 1 race in Fairyhouse.
However, Footpad has the speed to be placed in a Champion Hurdle and I'll be very surprised if Death Duty has that kind of horsepower under his bonnet. But I've been surprised before!
Al Boum Photo goes down to Limerick for their feature Grade 2 novice chase - and he is built for chasing. He has won a beginners chase over two miles, but I've no doubt he is better the further he goes. He has the Scottish National winner, Al Co, in his pedigree as well as classy stayer Grands Crus.
Mikey O'Sullivan, who learnt his trade from Arthur Moore, looks after him and is full of this horse. Mikey doesn't say much, so when he talks you take heed.
I ride Black Bow in the bumper. If you can, try and get to see him in the parade ring. He is an oil painting; a big black beautiful beast.
He won an English point to point, which is unusual to see in an Irish bumper. He does everything easy at home and I'm really looking forward to swinging my leg over him.
This bumper is always red-hot and you are guaranteed to hear whispers for them all.
This is a bumper I've only won once, on Bacardys, but I would love to have another winner on St Stephen's Day in Leopardstown as it is a unique day and I really hope this horse can do the business - especially as I'll be missing Christmas dinner to ride him!
Al Boum Photo
All I want for christmas is Douvan back fighting fit
The lowest point on the roller coaster that was last season was Douvan bowing out in Cheltenham.
It was meant to be his coronation, but it was obvious early on that he wasn’t himself, as his jumping was sloppy and Ruby’s body language was never comfortable.
That evening, in our rented cottage, we were dissecting the day. There was a long silence at one stage of the conversation, which my father broke with the words: “They’ll never forgive him.”
It struck me as a strange thought. Our yard was after having the worst beginning to an international offensive since the Somme, our best horse was injured and out of Punchestown – where we needed him to help claw back the deficit in the Trainers’ Championship – and all Willie was worried about was Douvan’s reputation.
That tells you all you need to know about what he thinks of Douvan. We are lucky to have a lot of good horses, but there are those few rare coloured diamonds we mine that could be the stuff of lore.
There is a pressure and responsibility to get these horses to achieve as much as their potential demands and Willie has a fierce desire to unbolt all of Douvan’s.
The report that Douvan was injured again is the kind of news that makes you want to get in the car, slam the door, throw on an Eminem album and drive the wrong side of the speed limit to nowhere in particular.
It’s sickening, but we should have him back in the future. That’s my Christmas wish, because I really don’t think we’ve seen very many like him.