Thursday 21 February 2019

Walsh and Mullins insist stable's dip in form is not a concern at Closutton

Ruby Walsh. Photo: Sportsfile
Ruby Walsh. Photo: Sportsfile
Michael Verney

Michael Verney

Ruby Walsh and Patrick Mullins are not concerned by the inconsistency of Willie Mullins' yard and expect the wheel to turn as many of his Closutton string shake off the cobwebs and get a run under their belt after an unusually dry spell.

Despite already accumulating a shade over €3 million in prize money this season and leading the Irish trainers' championship from rival Gordon Elliott by just over €550,000, Mullins' runners have been in patchy form. Mullins has had 27 losing favourites since Christmas with many finishing well out of contention - he has had six winning hotpots during that time - but Walsh is not panicking.

"A lot of them are only having their first run. They should have been running in November but they couldn't because of the ground.

"Some of them ran at Christmas but I wouldn't be worried," Walsh said at launch of the 2019 Thyestes Chase in Gowran Park.

The trainer's son Patrick agreed that there isn't any great need for concern with the Dublin Racing Festival in early February and the Cheltenham Festival eight weeks away.

"I think we had this worry this time last year so no I think it's far enough away... I think a few of our horses at Christmas needed the run which usually they wouldn't. You'd rather have them undercooked at Christmas rather than overcooked," Mullins said.

"Everything is with a view to Cheltenham and Punchestown, so no I don't think we're going to start worrying yet.

"The weather has changed the lay-out of the season. A lot of our horses are a run or two behind where they should be at this stage but they're just going to have to go."

Walsh laments the fact that many marquee equine names - including Pat Kelly's Gold Cup favourite Presenting Percy - have had to stay on the sidelines as the wait for soft ground continues but he acknowledges that little can be done.

"You're under pressure in the sense that you have a yard full of horses that you can't run to earn prize money. There's good races going by but the season will still only be as long as it is. There's no races to run them in May, June and July even if it does rain," Walsh said.

"It's frustrating in that horses aren't going to get to run as often as they would but you're not in any worry about anything else other than they're not going to have as many runs as they usually would have."

The abject performance of Tornado Flyer in the Grade One Lawlor's of Naas Novice Hurdle ten days ago was a "complete mystery" to Mullins but the Punchestown Festival Champion Bumper winner is already back in full work and will be seen again "sooner rather than later".

Champion Hurdle hopeful Laurina - as low as 3/1 second favourite behind reigning champion Buveur D'Air - is another which has been hindered by the dry weather.

It's up in the air whether the exciting mare will make another appearance before heading to the Cotswolds with Mullins admitting that little was learned after her Sandown rout earlier this month.

"Did it tell us anything for the Champion Hurdle? Not really, which is disappointing.

"With a horse like her you'd love to have a bit more experience, she's only ran against mares and novice mares so there's a huge step up in class there," Mullins said.

"Everyone loves potential. People prefer potential over hard evidence but if you go back and look at her performance in Cheltenham last year, then I'd hope her price is right."

Sharjah (9/1) is another Champion Hurdle candidate after victory in last month's Ryanair Hurdle but watered ground on the opening day of the Festival would be "a slight concern".

Irish Independent

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