Thursday 21 November 2019

Patrick Mullins: 'A day of days leaves Dad in pole position'

Willie Mullins with Jockey Patrick Mullins after The BETDAQ Punchestown Champion Hurdle of €250,000 at Punchestown yesterday. Photo: Colin O'Riordan
Willie Mullins with Jockey Patrick Mullins after The BETDAQ Punchestown Champion Hurdle of €250,000 at Punchestown yesterday. Photo: Colin O'Riordan
Patrick Mullins guides Wicklow Lad over the final flight on the way to landing the Champion Hurdle at Punchestown yesterday and, below, doing a ‘Frankie Dettori’ after winning on Bacardys. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Patrick Mullins

'As we enter the final throes of the season," I wrote for today's column before racing began yesterday, "we're looking for an Ole Gunnar Solskjaer-like injury-time strike on this, the final day."

Three wins (535/1 if you did the treble), two of them Grade Ones, for my dad Willie and later I had to make some alterations and now I have some appreciation for those football journalists who have everything written only for two late goals to ruin everything!

I had also written: "We rattled the crossbar several times this week but managed to claw back the considerable deficit in the race for the trainers' title. It has left us with a fighting chance in the dying moments of a titanic struggle. Gordon Elliott has had a fantastic season, accomplishing an amazing amount in such a short time - but we won't let this go easily."

I was not far off, but clearly trying to predict yesterday would have taken some doing. I am a positive person and so is my father but the week had been frustrating and who could have envisaged both Wicklow Brave and Bacardys winning?

Clearly, the ride I gave Wicklow Brave was especially satisfying. I hit the crossbar all week; I'd three seconds and I had a second the week before Punchestown too.

To do that was fantastic, especially as it was so helpful to Dad. After all the hype about Labaik, my lad nearly didn't jump off. Then he was jumping and travelling so well that I didn't want to disappoint him.

I just said that I'd take a chance by letting him jump and travel: he'd enjoy himself. I knew if he did he might have the ability to win. He jumped so slickly the whole way that I was able to trust him. I needed to jump the last fluently because I was starting to run on fumes.

It was a magic feeling. Funny enough, the Bacardys success didn't quite go to plan - which was to follow Ruby Walsh. Bacardys jumped high and to his left. All credit to the horse to be able to come from where he did. Montalbano winning put me in dreamland. And now Dad leads Gordon into the final day.

Mullins dismounts Bacardys after winning the Tattersalls Ireland Champion Novice Hurdle at Punchestown. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Mullins dismounts Bacardys after winning the Tattersalls Ireland Champion Novice Hurdle at Punchestown. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile

I think too that he deserves credit for resisting the temptation to run Annie Power today, given her lacklustre work. The championship is hugely important but he hasn't let it overwhelm his horse sense.

The Grade Ones today see both sides well represented. The race Annie may have run in now looks easier for the worst 'ex' anybody ever had, Apple's Jade. She has beaten us in two Grade Ones and will be very hard to bring down again.

In Annie's absence, we send Karalee (3.50) to attempt to topple Gordon's Medusa of a mare. It is a huge ask of this grey after two runs for us. She has bundles of ability; while a mighty task, she can make life difficult for Apple's Jade.

Royal Bond winner Airlie Beach has struggled to regain that form. Whiteout caused a surprise in this last year but also failed to find her best this season. I won at this festival last year on Augusta Kate. She can follow up. She had a hard race in Fairyhouse, where she beat Let's Dance, but before she won here last year she had run well in Cheltenham and Aintree so, while petite, she is as tough as Katie Taylor and I feel she can put Apple's Jade on the mat.

The AES Champion Four Year Old Hurdle (4.25) has a Cheltenham rematch between Bapaume and Mega Fortune, the head between them the difference between Dad and Gordon in deciding top Cheltenham trainer! Bapaume can turn the tables: he seems to have come out of Cheltenham particularly well. The diminutive Dandy Mag ran well in defeat at Fairyhouse; the leggy Merie Devi, which missed Cheltenham, comes here fresh.

The Ballymore Handicap Hurdle (5.35) is worth the same as the Grade Ones and we have launched an armada of eight runners.

Hectic This is a notoriously tricky race which can be as hectic as the bull run in Pamplona; 25 runners in such a competitive, valuable handicap will ensure the run to the first will be akin to the Charge of the Light Brigade!

Ruby picked Bonbon Au Miel, improving with every run and on a reasonable racing weight. Renetti, Thomas Hobson and Open Eagle all won last time but likely have too much weight. Pique Sous and Allblak Des Places have previous form to make them well-in but not recent form. Livelovelaugh ticks a lot of boxes but I believe Mine Now for Peter Fahey is the one to beat. He sneaks in at the bottom, has run well at the track and will get the strong pace he needs.

I own a part of The Crafty Butcher with some friends and I'm hoping that he can finally get his head in front after some near-misses. His run in Leopardstown at Christmas is fabulous form and the drop in trip last time counted against him. At today's trip I think he can find his way back into the winner's enclosure. The only downside is he has too little weight for me to ride him!

Sambremont runs in the Handicap Chase (3.10). He was pulled up on three of his last four runs but was second over a trip similar to this at this venue. He is a Rubik's Cube to us as he has ability but has disappointed this term. One day he'll get it together.

White Arm will be hard to beat. He won doing handstands in Fairyhouse and gets in at the bottom of the weights for handicap king Tony Martin. Ballyboker Bridge should be hard to beat in the first (2.35). I ride Sparky Stowaway for my uncle Tom in the bumper (6.10) and he goes well but You Raise Me Up's pedigree catches the eye. We had his dam, Morning Supreme, a fantastic race-mare.

Whatever result, what an extraordinary season. We've had exhilarating victories, bitter losses. Come tomorrow everybody is back to zero. We intend to try to do it all again, but better! And yesterday will never be forgotten.

PATRICK'S PICKS 2.35 Ballyboker Bridge 3.10 White Arm 3.50 Augusta Kate 4.25 Bapaume 5.00 The Crafty Butcher 5.35 Mine Now 6.10 You Raised Me Up

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