Friday 19 January 2018

Track Talk: Patience appears to be a key element in Willie Mullins' winning formula

A record eight winners for the week, a 1-2-3 in the Champion Hurdle, a 1-2 in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and what could have been a 1-2 in the Mares Hurdle as well as all four Grade One races on the opening day. It’s no wonder Willie Mullins described last week as his best yet.

It is hard to compare Willie Mullins with the likes of Alex Ferguson and Brian Cody, as they are all dealing with different ingredients, but you’d have to say the achievements of Mullins are certainly as good as the aforementioned pair, if not better.

Nicky Henderson and Paul Nicholls are two of the finest trainers of their generation, but Willie Mul-lins managed to send out more winners last week than the two of them put together.

But what makes it all come together, like last week? Yes, Mullins has extremely wealthy owners who can obviously afford to buy the most expensive horses. While not always the case, the most expensive horses tend to have a better chance at being the most talented.

There were a few things that Mullins said in his post-race interviews last week that stuck in my head.

Mullins was highly questioned about not running Un De Sceaux in Grade One company last season and in some corners he was probably criticised, but it wasn’t about dodging bullets with a few of his bigger guns, his absence from the main stages of last year’s Festival was down solely to the horse not being ready and Mullins looking at the long-term rather than the short-term.

Yes, Un De Sceaux would have had a great chance of winning a Grade One at either Cheltenham, Aintree or Punchestown last season but maybe then we wouldn’t have seen the breathtaking per-formance we saw from the horse in the Arkle.

How many trainers with Un De Sceaux, no matter how hot-headed he is, would have been able to avoid the temptation to run in a Grade One last season?

Mullins said: “Some horses are just not ready for Grade One races and I’m not too keen to put them into them and it pays off down the line. A jump horse’s career is over many years and I don’t want it all the first year. I think you’ve got to wait and let them come around and mature.

Too many people think they are Flat horses and maybe get it all the first year. I like to grow them and go up the steps of the ladder one at a time.”

In saying that, Mullins also added Douvan into that scenario as he bypassed the opportunity to run him in a Grade One prior to going to the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham.

The other thing that really stuck out was that Mullins is constantly changing and trying to improve. Almost every trainer in the country would be delighted to have half of his success but he’s continually wondering how he can get more and again that was seen to work last week.

Mullins said: “Last year we walked out of here with four winners and it was a great week but I think we had six seconds and we just sat down and wondered that if we could tweak a few things and get those seconds into firsts, it could be an incredible week.”

You’d have to feel that eight winners, six at Grade One level, was an incredible week but you still get the impression that a similar discussion will be had in the coming weeks on how to better it again.

That seems to be nature of the beast.

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