Wednesday 26 June 2019

Patrick Mullins: Our backs are to the wall but we're set for war

Getabird is taken to bounce back to his best. Photo credit: PA Wire
Getabird is taken to bounce back to his best. Photo credit: PA Wire

Patrick Mullins

Two titans have gone hammer blow for hammer blow this season and the racing world has shook from the tremors.

The young challenger and the old king have wrestled back and forth for supremacy and the challenger yet again has forced the king on to one knee, his thirst for revenge after the final defeat in the dying embers of last season so far unquenched.

The battalions sent forth from Cullentra have been vast: 1,175 runners, 302 individual horses, 206 winners. I'm reliably informed Hannibal crossed the Alps with less horses than that!

Never before has the like been seen on these shores, it is reminiscent only of Gordon Elliott's old mentor, the legendary Martin Pipe.

Willie has chosen not to step softly aside and let the would-be usurper walk unto the throne unchecked.

We have sent out more horses than ever (237), had more winners than ever(194) and asked more of our staff than ever. And yet, despairingly, it may not be enough.

As Alice's Red Queen in Lewis Carroll's famed fantasy novel once said, here you have to run as fast as you can just to stand still.

We have been harried every step of this campaign since that last-gasp victory in Punchestown.

From Galway to Listowel to Leopardstown to Fairyhouse, Elliott's army has consistently shown its quality and quantity.

It has cut through the season as devastatingly as German Panzers through the Maginot Line.

We have given ground grudgingly and have finally fallen back to Punchestown, knowing that if we could reach here with a chance, no matter how slight, we can still deliver the killer blow.

Here we can compete numerically. Here our soldiers count for more. The four marquee races will prove the key with their huge prizes. We can't afford to miss as there is nowhere to fall back to after. This war ends here.

Gordon has made no secret as to how he covets the trophy that has rested on the island in the kitchen in Closutton for the past decade.

Our backs are to the wall and it looks unlikely that we can keep those three beautiful bronze horses from his grasp. But unlikely isn't impossible.

We make our intentions known straight away.

Douvan, Min and Un De Sceaux clash in the Champion Chase. I can't put into words the feeling of missed opportunity I have from what happened at Cheltenham, it's like a scab that shouldn't be scratched so I won't even try.

From what I felt there and what I've seen since, Douvan is back like he was never away and I expect him to lay down a marker for next season.

While he fell a long way out in Cheltenham, I believe he was operating in a different league, on that day at least, to those behind him.

His fall can be put down to a lack of match practice, but that was how the cards were dealt for him this season unfortunately.

He has schooled brilliantly since and his work is Douvanesque. I believe we will see him at his best once again today. Min provides gold-star back-up should anything go amiss and I get to swing my leg over Un De Sceaux, which is a massive thrill.

I schooled him yesterday and I'm still smiling from the buzz!

He was beaten in this race last year and probably wants further or at least much softer ground at this stage of his career to be seen at his best.

Nevertheless, a decorated warrior such as he can never be ruled out entirely.

Getabird is manoeuvered onto the frontline today too and there is every reason to believe he can bounce back to his best in The Herald Champion Novice Hurdle.

He was fiercely impressive at this venue and at Fairyhouse either side of losing his head in the crucible at the Cotswolds. He beat Mengli Khan before Cheltenham and I expect him to do so again.

I get behind the wheel on Sharjah and I think he can recapture the form he showed when so unlucky at Leopardstown over Christmas. He wears a first time tongue tie and the drier ground will also help.

I'm reunited with Rathvinden later in the day. I was fiercely proud of him in Cheltenham where he answered every call from me in the closing stages of four-miler.

This is a hugely competitive race however, with great strength in depth in three Cheltenham winners and Grade One winners from Aintree and Fairyhouse, not to mention the Thyestes winner too.

In Presenting Percy's absence, Monalee's second in the RSA at Cheltenham makes him the one to beat.

Patrick's Picks

4.20 Getabird

4.55 True Self (each-way)

5.30 Douvan

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