Mikael catches eye on Gallops
Leopardstown's traditional pre-Cheltenham meeting, which is the track's final jump meeting of the season, attracted a healthy crowd yesterday as there were plenty of pointers to note both from the competitive racing and the now highly anticipated after-racing gallops.
Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh stole the show with a treble each, but afterwards it was the participation of Mikael D'Haguenet in a schooling session where all eyes were focused and, while pleased, Mullins didn't confirm Cheltenham as a target.
"I thought he jumped very sure-footed," Mullins said, "but at least he didn't stand back and get himself a fall. He was very clever when he had to be."
"We will keep going with him and I was delighted with how he finished with J'y Vole, who is Ryanair bound now. We will just wait and see how Mikael is in the next few days and take it from there."
Owner Rich Ricci echoed Mullins' thoughts and said a decision regarding D'Haguenet's Cheltenham prospects would be "delayed as long as possible".
"I am happy enough with that. He wasn't as bold, he was a bit tentative today; he made a few mistakes and it is a big ask but he will work next week and see then," said Ricci. "We won't jeopardise the horse but we always said we would do our best and we want to give him every opportunity.
"He is such a Gold Cup horse in the making that we won't be chasing an Arkle or RSA and miss two Gold Cups because of it. We won't ruin him, I promise you that. It's important to balance the risk over reward, as I know from being a banker, but he is a gem of a horse."
In total, Mullins had 16-horses working after racing, 13 of which schooled over fences and of the rest the trainer was happy with what he witnessed.
"Cooldine was excellent and Paul Townend was very happy. Uimhiraceathair and The Midnight Club were also quite good for novices, behind the more experienced Cooldine, while Sports Line needed that as he had a setback or two and he will need to do it all again somewhere.
"Shakervillez and Quiscover Fontaine were good, and Barker needed it and will need it again before we go. I worked him last week too and he didn't sparkle so he might be kept for Fairyhouse or Punchestown. He will have to do a lot of hard work before Cheltenham anyway. Irish Invader will probably go for the National and Jayo needed that -- he might go for one of the handicaps at Cheltenham."
Mullins also worked three over 1m 6f on the flat and, of the three, Quevega was a notable eye-catcher.
"Quevega, Lios A Choill and Black Harry only did a half-speed as they have been off for so long, and I just wanted them to go around and finish upsides in the straight, but I was delighted with them and they all seemed to finish galloping.
"Quevega really got lit up and was bursting to go double the speed, and she will do the same again next week somewhere."
There were 53 horses after racing yesterday and others to be involved were the Gordon Elliott team of Meath All Star, Chicago Grey, Carlito Brigante, Silver Birch and Backstage. Elliot said of Triumph Hurdle contender Carlito Brigante: "He galloped well. He had a nice blow and went well, he only does what he has to."
Champion Hurdle hopeful Sublimity came home clear of his group under regular rider Philip Carberry, while Rare Bob appeared to work the best of Dessie Hughes' trio which also included Schindlers Hunt and Lenabane.
Tom Cooper had Forpadydeplaster up to school and, having been previously ruled out of the Festival at which he won last year, he is now firmly on course for a tilt at the Champion Chase.
"Barry (Geraghty) said you'd hardly know he missed any work. He was especially good at the last ditch and it's all systems go for the Queen Mother."
Edward O'Grady gave Jumbo Rio a gallop under Andrew McNamara over 1m 6f, while he also schooled Osana. However, it was two of O'Grady's charges earlier in the day that really put their Cheltenham credentials on show. Tranquil Sea justified the decision to run in the rearranged Grade Two Newlands Chase as he eased to an impressive victory, which now sees him as short as 9/2 for the Ryanair Chase later this month.
"It isn't often things go as according to plan as that did," admitted the winning trainer. "Hopefully it's onwards and upwards and I couldn't have asked for any more.
"The owner decided he was better off going around here for €26,000 than schooling around in the dark after racing. It was a very delicate balancing act as we wanted a bit of work and wanted to win the race, but we didn't want him to have a hard race, so it worked out very well."
O'Grady went on to complete a quickfire double and book another on the boat for Cheltenham as Shot From The Hip put up a serious performance to claim the concluding bumper.