Friday 15 December 2017

Cheltenham 2015: I'm just hoping for the best, reveals Patrick Mullins

Mullins: I'd settle for one if Fly could win

Bordini, with Patrick Mullins, on the gallops ahead of the Cheltenham Racing Festival 2015
Bordini, with Patrick Mullins, on the gallops ahead of the Cheltenham Racing Festival 2015

There is no hiding the importance of how big a week this is for Willie Mullins and his entire outfit at Closutton. Win lose or draw, he is going to be dominating miles of column inches over the next week or so as people analyse the success or failure of his incredibly formidable team. .

A major part of that team is his son Patrick, who himself has three Cheltenham winners to his name as a jockey, and while looking to add to that this year, he is also just hoping that the big team of horses can live up to their potential.

The champion amateur admitted to the Herald that there has been no times for nerves to kick in just yet.

"Monday might be a different story but I found this year there just hasn't been time to think about getting nervous," Mullins said.

"We were racing Wednesday and Thursday and again on Saturday and Sunday but we are enjoying the ride as much as anything."

Like his father, he'd happily walk out of Cheltenham with just one winner for the entire week if that winner could be Hurricane Fly winning a third Champion Hurdle tomorrow afternoon but he concedes that the dream outcome will be difficult.

"It's all about The Fly. It's going to be very difficult... Sea Pigeon and Hatton's Grace are the two 11-year-olds that have won the race but he's there with his chance.

big chance

"I think the ground is probably not in his favour but his work has been good and he is over there with as big a chance as anything else."

Just having 50 horses in training would take some managing but to be sending that sort of number across the water to contest the Cheltenham Festival is a major operation. Mullins summed it up nicely by suggesting it is a "perfect storm".

"We are very lucky to have some fantastic owners and a great team at home headed by Dick Dowling and Gail Carlisle and obviously Ruby (Walsh) and Paul (Townend) are huge assets as well so it's a bit of a perfect storm in everything coming together. Hopefully they can go over and get the results we are hoping for."

While so much of punters' hopes rest on the shoulders of Willie Mullins, Patrick was quick to say that it's not just their team that do the winning at Cheltenham.

A steady increase in Irish domination over the last number of years peaked with 14 Irish winners two years ago and last year's impressive total of 12 compared to the seven just back in 2008, when the amateur enjoyed his first of three winners at the meeting on Cousin Vinny.

"A lot of people are saying that we are very lucky to have a lot of horses at the minute but the Irish are having more winners full stop. Everyone is having more winners, as you can see with the 12 last year and the 14 the year before. So it's not just us going over there, everyone else is doing fantastically as well and hopefully the whole Irish team can continue doing that."

Looking ahead to adding to his personal Cheltenham success and with Don Poli redirected to the RSA from tomorrow's National Hunt Chase, Mullins looks like opting for Perfect Gentleman.

"I think Perfect Gentleman could have a good chance of a placing," he suggested. "He wants a trip and being by Kings Theatre he wants good ground and if he can get around, I think he can be in the first three or four.

"I have no ride in the Kim Muir or the Foxhunters but I ride Uncle Junior in the Cross Country Race. He worked very well last week so he booked his ticket. He is clearly still enjoying himself so we said, 'why not?' but he probably wants softer ground."

The market currently suggests that Bordini is the pick of the Mullins team for the Champion Bumper, which the yard has dominated, but with Patrick yet to know what he will be riding the face of the betting could well change following that revelation. While having an input into which he'll pick, Mullins still insists that his father will make the call.

"I don't know what I ride in the Champion Bumper yet. We've sent seven over to run in it and anyone of them could win it.

"I'll talk to Dad and in the end it will be Dad's decision as to what I ride. I get a bit of input in but when you the likes of Ruby and Bryan Cooper picking the wrong one and they've two or three to choose from, there's seven here and they are all young and improving horses. You don't know how they are going to handle Cheltenham and the atmosphere but they are all there because we feel they are all capable of winning."


As regards splitting up the other army of horses for different races such as the novice contests and the handicaps for example, Patrick also has some involvement with his father.

"We'd sit down and more so I'd be doing the listening while Dad is thinking out loud!" he laughed. "I'd add in one or two things here or there but mostly I just listen as best I can."

On the eve of the greatest show on turf, the work is done and counting down the minutes until Douvan flies the flag for favourite backers and Mullins followers in tomorrow's Supreme Novices' Hurdle.

"The first load of horses of went over on Saturday and they arrived in safe and sound and it's the work is done now, it's just a case of waiting for it to begin.

"This time next week it could all be different but as of now we are in a very privileged position and we are going to try and enjoy it."

Finally, if he had the pick of any one of his father's string to try and get the fourth Cheltenham Festival winner on the board, what would it be?

"Un De Sceaux would be the biggest thill in it, but I like Djakadam - I think he has a chance in the Gold Cup."

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