#startracking Weekend Review Thursday 22nd–Sunday 25th January
Tuesday January 26th
It’s all about Willie Mullins!
Un de Sceaux and Vroum Vroum Mag at Ascot, Douvan and Faugheen at Leopardstown and probably A Toi Phil at the same venue and Footpad and Tell Us More at Gowran all booked their tickets to the Cheltenham Festival.
Un de Sceaux, Douvan and Faugheen will all be odds on in March and rightly so. Vroum Vroum Mag is more difficult to place as it depends on Annie Power. My personal feeling is that Ricci/Mullins/Walsh feel there is a wrong to be righted and Annie Power will go for the Mares Hurdle and VVM would be a shot to nothing in the World Hurdle. Whilst talking of race plans I believe that Mullins, definitely, and Ricci, probably, want to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup above all other races at any of the Spring Festivals and they will run BOTH Djakadam and Vautour in the Gold Cup if they are fit and raring to go. This arrangement might not suit Ruby Walsh but I think he’s got enough to smile about already and I think he would chose to ride Vautour. With Vautour out of the RyanAir it would give another of Willie Mullins big owners, Gigginstown, a free run at their own race and I would not be surprised if Don Cossack took that route.
Many wise men have pointed out that Willie Mullins is a creature of habit. He likes to give his Cheltenham horses three runs in three definite windows, end of October/beginning November, Christmas/New Year and this is the third, end of January/first week of February. If a top horse misses one or even two of the windows he will try to make tis the third. So I would expect to see Annie Power between now and February 7th otherwise it will be a la Quevega and straight to Cheltenham for the MARES race. Some of his top novices he may run outside of those windows to gain experience or try a new trip.
I am a keen follower of trends and statistics but Willie Mullins is completely bucking the system and rewriting the record books. I am not surprised he has now started to mop up the big English Saturday races as he just hasn’t enough opportunities to run the in Ireland. So again this Saturday Djakadam will be odds on to take the Grade 2 Betbright Trial Chase over Cheltenham’s three miles and I just hope Oliver Sherwood is brave enough to take him on with Many Clouds to make the form worthwhile. I expect Paul Townend will go Doncaster to ride Morning Run in the Grade 2 OLBG.com Mares Hurdle. It would be interesting if any of Up for Review, Nambour or Stone Hard ran in the Alfred Bartlett trial or Shaneshill in the 2m Grade 2 Lightning Novices Chase on Town Moor. Avant Tout and Townshend are entered in the handicaps at Cheltenham. Their OR ratings alone will be worth the exercise.
Talking of handicappers and getting back to the weekly review Blood Cotil ran well enough in the Coral.ie Chase at Leopardstown the Sunday before to suggest he could be a player in the 3m handicap on Day 1 of Cheltenham. Likewise Ballycasey in the Thyestes at Gowran on Thursday though he has always looked a lay not a play to me! Another who could have Coral Cup/Martin Pipe pretensions is Pylonthepressure and it will be interesting if he gets a third run in the next fortnight.