Willie Mullins may implement a change of tactics for Melon in Sunday’s Paddy Power Irish Gold Cup, the headline event on the second day of the Dublin Racing Festival.
The nine-year-old has the unwanted record of finishing second at the last four Cheltenham Festivals, hitting the bar in the Supreme and twice in the Champion Hurdle before being edged out by a nose in last year’s Marsh Novices’ Chase.
He gained another near-miss in the Savills Chase at Christmas when A Plus Tard finished with a real flourish to scupper both third-placed Melon and stablemate Kemboy, who took second.
“I was thinking one of them – please. If either of them had fallen at the last you’d have been thinking how far, but they didn’t. They probably didn’t help each other and I think we’ll probably change tactics with Melon,” said Mullins.
“Up to now we’ve been putting cheekpieces on Melon, putting go faster stripes on him so he could be more competitive over two miles and two and a half.
“You’d have to think if we change tactics a bit, it might suit us better.”
The recent weather has not been in Kemboy’s favour, but he will need a new jockey following the retirement of David Mullins.
The trainer said: “He seems to like Leopardstown, but the only worry is the rain – they got a huge amount over the weekend.”
Mullins would have liked a third runner in the race but Castlebawn West, winner of a big handicap with top weight over Christmas, is out for the remainder of the season.
“Castlebawn West is unfortunately out, he split a pastern during the week. He’s up in hospital now with five new screws in. So he’s out for the season, but hopefully he’s back next season,” said Mullins.
Arguably Mullins’ banker of the meeting is due to run in the Flogas Novice Chase – the impressive Monkfish – although who will join him has still to be decided.
“I suppose Monkfish is the obvious one, Colreevy won’t go she had a hard race the other day. Janadil I’d be keen to have a crack there, Franco De Port and Energumene will run over two miles,” said Mullins.
“I didn’t run Asterion (Forlonge) over three miles yesterday so he could go here, he’s won a Grade One there over two miles. I know he jumps a little bit right, but we might try different tactics on him. It’s a bigger concern he fell at the first the last day than jumping right!
“Monkfish looks a real natural. All this rain will suit him and two-five won’t be an issue.”
A new recruit to the yard heads Mullins’ team in the Tattersalls Ireland Spring Juvenile Hurdle in French Aseel, a winner for Ellmarie Holden first time out.
“French Aseel looked very good at Christmas and the form got franked again yesterday. He’s a lovely type and has settled in well. I’m pleased with him so we’ll see how he goes during the week,” said Mullins.
“Youmdor got a hard fall. On the day I thought he was quite knocked about, but he came home that night and ate up and he’s been fine since. I’ll have to think about whether I’m going to run him or not, I’ll see how he works this week.
“He was going well and would have been the shortest price in running, he just changed his mind when Paul (Townend) asked him.”
Ha D’or and Saint Sam could also run.
“Ha D’or was having his first run over hurdles at Christmas, he’s sure to improve a huge bit. We just wanted to see how he could jump and he jumped well. He’ll be a nice horse some day, but this might be too early in his career,” reasoned Mullins.
“I think Saint Sam ran better than his finishing position, he got the worst run of the race and he’s improving all the time. He’s got ground to make up on Zanahiyr, but I do think he’s improving.”
The Chanelle Pharma Novice Hurdle is the next stop for Appreciate It, current favourite for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. He could be joined by Mr Coldstone.
“Appreciate It is in great shape. I was hugely taken with the performance he put in at Christmas,” said Mullins.
“Gauloise will run in the Solerina Hurdle next Monday, but Mr Coldstone impressed me with what he did down in Tramore, so maybe he’ll take his chance and we’ll see what he is.”