Willie: Beating Dunguib's not such a Mountain to climb
Having watched his charge Fionnegas be brushed aside by Dunguib in the Deloitte Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown last time around, Willie Mullins was yesterday looking forward to renewing a challenge with Philip Fenton's star, but with another of his string, this time Blackstairmountain.
Despite his obvious inexperience jumping hurdles, the five-year-old is spoken about in a confident manner by Mullins, who is delighted with the horse's homework both before and after he made a winning debut over hurdles at Punchestown in January -- his only appearance over the sticks to date.
"We gave him one good school before Punchestown and he did everything right that day and Ruby was delighted with him," said Mullins.
"He has lots of gears and while he's a bit inexperienced over hurdles he's not inexperienced as a racehorse as he's run in five bumpers twice on the flat.
"I've had him away schooling a couple of times and he hasn't put a foot wrong. I know it will be a fast and furious race. We are taking a bit of a chance but we have to do that."
Boylesports yesterday reported Blackstairmountain as a market mover for his Supreme Novices Hurdle date with Dunguib and is now a 10/1 chance from 12s with the Louth-based firm.
Naturally, the champion trainer holds the utmost respect for Dunguib.
"Dunguib looks the part and I think he'll jump better than he did in Leopardstown. Once he let him down to race, I thought he jumped much better and when they are going a gear faster in Cheltenham it will make him easier to ride and I think he'll jump better," said Mullins.
He concluded: "If my fellow jumps well enough, I think he has a great chance."
Meanwhile, Cheltenham Racecourse yesterday announced the shortlist for this year's Ladies Award which recognises the outstanding contribution made by a lady to jump racing and among them are the Irish duo of Joan Moore and Jessica Harrington.
Won last year by Nina Carberry, the winner will be announced on Friday and she will be presented on Ladies Day -- day three of the Festival.
Moore, grandmother to the Carberrys -- Paul, Philip and Nina -- was a major influence and major part of the Dan Moore operation which produced 14 winners at the meeting including L'Escargot who won back to back Gold Cups in 1970 and 1971.
Current trainer Arthur is a son of Joan's and his only sister is Pamela, who is married to Tommy Carberry and the proud mother of Paul, Philip and Nina who have all rode Cheltenham winners.
Jessica Harrington will be forever associated with the great Moscow Flyer. A winner of the Arkle in 2002, Moscow Flyer won the Champion Chase in 2003 and 2005 for the Kildare-based trainer, unseating Barry Geraghty in between.