Willie Mullins 2018 Cheltenham Festival Stable Tour

By Johnny Ward
Sat 10 Mar 2018

Johnny Ward was at the yard of the serial Irish champion on Monday and took notes on all the horses who got a mention.

'Willie Mullins' Stable Visit - Ireland Faugheen was among those who exercised in front of the media on Monday (PA)

By Johnny Ward at Clusutton

Willie Mullins has been the dominant force at the Cheltenham Festival in recent years and has at least three likely hotpots for next month in Laurina, Footpad and Getabird.

It is remarkable to think that his short-priced contenders do not include Faugheen, Douvan, Yorkhill or Limini, though at least the first two are still in training.

Mullins, seeking to add to the 54 winners he has achieved at the Festival, is cautiously optimistic about Faugheen and Douvan and expressed his happiness at their wellbeing at a Cheltenham media event at his yard on Monday, but it would still be no surprise if one or both failed to make the boat after less than ideal campaigns.

The champion trainer for the last ten years in Ireland is no banker to be leading trainer at Cheltenham, but spoke in glowing terms about Laurina and Footpad in particular. He had a list of 40 horses who may go to the Festival. Here is what he had to say:

Getabird (Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle)

Punchestown Racecourse

He will go for the Supreme. Everything is 100 per cent with him. I know it was said about him being better going right-handed, I’ve nothing to suggest that. Even though he’s been (fragile), I’ve no worries about the test of the Supreme.

Sharjah (Supreme Novices' Hurdle)

He disappointed badly at Leopardstown but we think the ground was too soft, softer than expected. It may have affected more horses than we thought. He’s a different horse on dry ground and goes for the Supreme.

Footpad (Racing Post Arkle Trophy)

Leopardstown Christmas Festival - Day One -Leopardstown Racecourse

All is well with him. He has a beautiful method of jumping. He was fourth in a Champion Hurdle and his method of jumping has catapulted him right to the top over fences.

He could be a Gold Cup horse, we’ve no problem with him staying. The two-mile chasers are easier to keep than the stayers, though. Gold Cup racing is very tough. He is athletic, a natural, and he has no fear.

Faugheen (Unibet Champion Hurdle or Sun Bets Stayers' Hurdle)

I’d imagine he will go Champion Hurdle. You think everything is great after the Morgiana. He ran a grand race the last day (when second in the Irish Champion Hurdle) but will have to up his game to try and win there.

I still think he is competitive. I was downhearted after the last day; when I came home, I thought maybe it was not a bad run. People think when you have a good horse he must produce it every year; how many of them do?

Maybe he might never reach his old heights. I am delighted he was what he was, hopefully he can come back to that but age is not on his side. Hopefully Cheltenham might reignite him a little bit.

Melon (Champion Hurdle)

I don’t think he faced wearing the hood the last day. That will be off him the next day and he has run well there before.

Yorkhill (Champion Hurdle or Ryanair Chase)

He is not a great work horse at home and idles in front when he gets there at the track. He’d be a nice one to run in the Ryanair along with Un De Sceaux, whereas he could run in the Champion Hurdle.

He never fired at Leopardstown and when he went down to the second fence you could see he couldn’t jump with two-mile chasers; at Christmas it looked as though he should be back over two miles.

We know he loves hurdles and there would be plenty of pace in the Champion Hurdle to bring his stamina into play. He would be a lot easier to ride there, we’ll see.

Maybe he was not ready at Christmas and blew up. I was very happy with his work last week, if he works as well as that again . . . we’ll leave a decision until later but he is 60-40 for the Champion Hurdle.

Wicklow Brave (Champion Hurdle)

He will have a shot at the Champion Hurdle.

Vroum Vroum Mag (OLBG Mares' Hurdle)

She is in great shape. I didn’t think we would have her back. She has not been covered, she might be covered later on.

Benie Des Dieux (Mares' Hurdle)

I think she’ll have a crack at the mares’ hurdle. I’m not going to worry about ground. Everything we ask her to do she does. I thought she’d win easier at Naas but maybe David (Mullins) was easy enough on her too. She has plenty of French hurdling experience.

Rathvinden (National Hunt Chase, RSA or JLT)

He could go to any of those races. Maybe the four-mile race is the way we will go with him.

Willie Mullins Stable Visit Yorkhill, pictured working on Monday, is 60-40 to run in the Champion Hurdle (PA)

Next Destination (Ballymore Novices' Hurdle)

I think he will go to the Ballymore along with Real Steel. Samcro looks an Irish banker but we have to run something!

Real Steel (Ballymore)

He will go for the Ballymore, I think. The form is working out well.

Al Boum Photo (RSA Insurance Novices' Chase or JLT Novices' Chase)

I’d be thinking the RSA Chase with him but he could go for the JLT.

Bonbon Au Miel (RSA)

I’d say he could go RSA Chase.

Invitation Only (RSA or JLT)

I’d say it will be RSA Chase or JLT Chase for him.

Douvan (Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase)

He has been pleasing me, doing everything right. He has a few more bits of work to get through. He has to go for the Champion Chase, all being well. And all is well.

Not so long ago we were being told we couldn’t train him for the year. He was entered at Gowran because it is beside us and the race may have cut up but the ground was really heavy.

He had a problem in his hind end last year, this year it was at the front. He seems to be fine at the moment. He might have a pop before going over there. We’ve had no setbacks since. It’s day to day with him and going there without a run is a concern.

I hope I can get him back to the form he was in back in November, when he did a brilliant bit of work but was lame the following morning.

Min (Champion Chase)

He will go to the Champion Chase and I’d consider him unbeaten this year, even though he lost out in the stewards’ room at Leopardstown.

Hollowgraphic, Carefully Selected and Blackbow (Weatherbys Champion Bumper)

Hollowgraphic is a fair horse, a fine looking horse I’m fond of, and I really liked how he did it last time, whereas Blackbow produced an excellent performance at Leopardstown.

Carefully Selected booked his place by winning at the weekend but Patrick said he always had his place booked! He dropped back in trip but was very good. I’m not sure who he will ride there.

Un De Sceaux (Ryanair Chase)

He has done tremendously well all season, although he has only had two runs. I think he is the ultimate iron horse.

He is in great condition and we have plenty to work on still for Cheltenham, which is surprising because you see him there this morning - he could not wait to get going. He is always very strong in his work in the mornings.

We are aiming for the Ryanair Chase. That is the target as far as we are concerned and I have not got any other plans unless something stupid happens to one of the other horses.

Augusta Kate (Sun Bets Stayers' Hurdle)

I think her run the last day was good enough to suggest a shot at the Stayers’ Hurdle. She ran a big race behind Presenting Percy in the Galmoy. We have the mares’ race as a back-up.

Bacardys (Stayers' Hurdle)

We will keep his status as a novice chaser and run in the hurdle race.

Penhill (Stayers' Hurdle)

The aim was to get him there - we planned on getting him to Cheltenham and it’s a tough task to win that race. If he runs well and comes out sound that will be good enough for us and we can look to Punchestown.

It is hard to get out of novice class to open class. He is going to have to do that, but then his Flat rating his high.

Laurina (Trull House Stud Mares' Novices' Hurdle)

Laurina Tramore 0

She looks special. She can go for the mares’ novice hurdle. If ever there is a Cheltenham mares’ chase it’ll be for her. She looks really good. She ran in Tramore because the race suited and won since in a winners’ race. She is top-class. I’ve no ground worry with her.

Mr Adjudicator (JCB Triumph Hurdle)

He had a bit of a cold last week but is fine. He is fit as a flea and I don’t think missing two bits of work will matter.

Saldier (Triumph Hurdle)

He’ll like a bit of nice ground, though it’s not ideal going there with all the hurdling experience he has - namely winning what was probably an ordinary race at Gowran. He did everything right.

Stormy Ireland (Mares' Novices' Hurdle or Triumph Hurdle)

She had a minor hold-up since her last run but that was a huge run. She just kept galloping. Everyone thought she’d fade but she kept pulling out more. It was an awesome performance.

Brahma Bull (Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle)

He is likely going for the Albert Bartlett. He had a little setback but I think he’s in good shape.

Duc De Genievres (Albert Bartlett)

Noel Fehily felt after he ran behind Samcro he could step up in trip. He was happy he can go a trip and I’d say the owners may look at the Albert Bartlett, rather than the Ballymore, and he’ll likely be joined by Fabulous Saga there for the same connections.

Ballyward (Albert Bartlett)

I’d imagine he will go for the Albert Bartlett.

Djakadam (Ryanair Chase or Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup)

He has not looked the same horse on the track this year and some people tell me he should go for the Ryanair, but it’s an open Gold Cup and I feel he should go for it.

Bachasson (Gold Cup)

Connections of Bachasson are keen to go to Cheltenham for the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup. He is fantastic jumper but whether he can carry that weight over that trip - it will be a tough ask.

Killultagh Vic (Gold Cup)

It’s straightforward that he will go to the Gold Cup. I would not have been betting against him winning the last day before he fell. Your first thought is usually your best thought. I’ve no stamina concerns. He has schooled well since his fall, hopefully he will have learnt from that.

Total Recall (Gold Cup)

The Grand National has been the plan for him but we’ll give it a go in the Gold Cup. Running in both has been done before and the Bobbyjo at Fairyhouse came too soon.

He is a relaxed horse who jumps economically. He won’t be using too much energy around Cheltenham and he deserves a crack at it.

Total Recall Limerick 2

He was free at Leopardstown but you could hide him in a Gold Cup. We had the Gold Cup at the back of our mind and we said we’d let him take his chance.

Let’s Dance (Mares' Hurdle, Coral Cup or Stayers' Hurdle)

She hasn’t fired at all this year. I think she has shown me she is getting there - we’ll see what way the stayers’ and mares’ races are working out. I don’t know what race she will run in really.

Meri Devie (numerous options)

She won last time and is well-entered up. We’ll see what mark she gets.

Lagostovegas (numerous options)

Likely to for the County Hurdle and would appreciatesome better ground. Ran well last time considering how bad the ground was.

Carter McKay (numerous options)

It depends on how the races cut up for him. He was alright at Leopardstown, I think he can be better.

Whiskey Sour (numerous options)

We may look at the Galway Hurdle for him, but there’s a chance he will go to Cheltenham.

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