Tag Archive for: American Mike

Mullins looking to Facile Vega to confirm star potential

Willie Mullins is confident Facile Vega possesses all the required attributes to provide him with a record 12th victory in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper.

It is 26 years since the Closutton maestro trained and rode Wither Or Which to victory in a Grade One contest he has since made his own.

He went on to saddle the next two winners in Florida Pearl and Alexander Banquet, while Cousin Vinny (2008), Champagne Fever (2012) and last year’s hero Sir Gerhard are among those to have struck gold since the turn of the century.

Facile Vega, a son of the six-times Festival heroine Quevega, is a red-hot favourite for this year’s renewal, having looked well above average in winning twice at Leopardstown – most recently powering clear of what appeared a strong field at last month’s Dublin Racing Festival.

Mullins earmarked the five-year-old as a potential star from an early stage, saying: “I got him ready last year to run and he did a bit of work one day that said to me ‘wow, this fellow could be special’.

“He got jarred and I left him alone after that. I thought if I could get him back this year to what he was last year I’d be happy, but we trained him with kid gloves as I didn’t want to overstretch him.

“I just hoped he had in the tank what was there last year and we took him to the racetrack and he won nicely, then what he did the last day from the furlong marker was exceptional.”

The horse rated the biggest threat to Facile Vega by bookmakers is American Mike, who has been similarly impressive in his two bumper starts for Gordon Elliott.

Mullins, however, would not swap his charge, adding: “He’s done everything right. I don’t know how his form matches up to American Mike, but from what I’ve seen at home he’s the one I’d want to be riding, anyhow.”

American Mike winning at Down Royal
American Mike winning at Down Royal (Niall Carson/PA)

Houlanbatordechais, James’s Gate, Madmansgame, Redemption Day, Seabank Bistro and Viva Devito complete the formidable Mullins squad.

Elliott has never made any secret of the regard in which he holds American Mike and is anticipating a bold showing in the day two finale.

“We’ve gone the same route that we’ve gone with Envoi Allen, Sir Gerhard and a few of those horses, so we said we’d go that way with him,” said the Cullentra handler.

“He’s in very good form, he looks very strong and we’re happy with him. He’s shown us good signs at home. From Christmas to now, the race has got a lot hotter, the better horses have come out.

“He’s a nice horse and has done nothing wrong.”

Elliott hoping to take Gold Cup chance with Conflated

Gordon Elliott is hoping he might get his way and persuade Michael O’Leary to run Conflated in the Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup rather than the Ryanair Chase.

O’Leary stated on Sunday he expected the surprise Irish Gold Cup winner would drop back in trip at the Cheltenham Festival, in preference to trying him over three and a quarter miles against stablemate Galvin in the blue riband.

However, Elliott feels Allaho could be a tough nut to crack in the Ryanair and favours giving his charge a chance in what appears an open Gold Cup year.

He said: “(I’d go for) the Gold Cup. Michael wants to go for the Ryanair, I want to go for the Gold Cup so we’ll probably have an argument for five minutes and normally he gets his way, but I hope I get mine.

Conflated on his way to victory in the Irish Gold Cup
Conflated on his way to victory in the Irish Gold Cup (Donall Farmer/PA)

“There’s only one Gold Cup. If you win the Ryanair, that’s grand, but the Gold Cup is the Gold Cup.

“I just think the way the Ryanair will be run, with the likes of Allaho in there, if he does make a mistake or miss a fence, he might not get back into the race. The Gold Cup, they might not go as quick early.

“It is a bit of a worry about the stamina, but it is a Gold Cup and there’s a worry about the stamina of a lot of horses.”

Conflated is a general 12-1 shot for the Gold Cup, with the Ronnie Bartlett-owned Galvin 4-1 second-favourite behind A Plus Tard for the Festival highlight.

Galvin has won two of his three starts this term, landing a Punchestown Grade Three on his seasonal bow before chasing home Frodon in the Champion Chase at Down Royal in late October.

The eight-year-old took another leap forward when shading A Plus Tard by a short head in the Savills Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas, and Elliott reports him to be sharpening up nicely at home.

Galvin has emerged as a serious Gold Cup contender
Galvin has emerged as a serious Gold Cup contender (Donall Farmer/PA)

He said: “Galvin has done nothing wrong all year. I think there’s maybe a question you could ask of every horse in the race.

“With Galvin you could maybe say he lacks a gear, but his work since Leopardstown has been very good. He’s been working with a few quicker horses and working well – we’re very happy with him.

“We know he stays, he’s won round Cheltenham, he relaxes, he jumps. If he’s within firing distance at the second-last, you know he will come home strong.”

Dual Grand National hero Tiger Roll is set for his swansong in the Glenfarclas Chase – the cross-country race he has won three times previously.

The 12-year-old is a five-time winner at the Festival in all, having landed the 2014 Triumph Hurdle and the 2017 National Hunt Chase, and Elliott has his fingers crossed conditions will allow for a glorious farewell with O’Leary planning to retire his superstar afterwards.

Tiger Roll is nearly unbeatable at the Cheltenham Festival
Tiger Roll is nearly unbeatable at the Cheltenham Festival (David Davies/Jockey Club)

The Cullentra trainer said: “He’s been the horse of a lifetime. We had him at Cheltenham over the banks last week and he was good.

“I suppose the one negative would be if it’s soft. Tiger Roll is not the same horse on soft. The better the ground, the better chance he has. I don’t think there’s an awful lot of rain in the next couple of weeks, so if the ground keeps drying out, we’re happy.

“He’s getting older so it’s hard to say if he’s as good as he was in his pomp, but if he turns up in the form he has the past couple of years, he will take all the beating.”

At the other end of the scale, Weatherbys Champion Bumper contender American Mike is set to have just his third start under rules.

A comfortable winner at Down Royal and Navan before Christmas, Elliott expects American Mike to face a stern test at Cheltenham, headed by the Willie Mullins-trained favourite Facile Vega.

American Mike is on course to clash with Facile Vega
American Mike is on course to clash with Facile Vega (Niall Carson/PA)

He said: “He’s good form, Jamie Codd rode him this morning and we’re very happy with him. He will probably work at Leopardstown next Monday, but we’re very happy with him. He’s spot on.

“Obviously Willie’s horse sets a very high standard. Jamie’s rode in most of the bumpers and knows it’s going to be a tough race, but we won’t lie down.”

Elliott houses both the second- and third-favourites for the JCB Triumph Hurdle in Cheltenham winner Pied Piper and Leopardstown runner-up Fil Dor and while both hold alternative Festival options, the juvenile championship is a likely target for both.

He said: “At the moment I would say both of them will go for the Triumph. I think the track will suit Fil Dor very well. They’re two very good horses.”

Elliott could also be double-handed in the Unibet Champion Hurdle with Zanahiyr and Teahupoo taking on the mighty Honeysuckle.

He added: “We’ve a good team – maybe a bit light on the middle distance and we’ve nothing for the Queen Mother or maybe the Stayers’ Hurdle, but we’ll have runners in most of the races.

“We’ll probably have our biggest team, numbers wise, going over so we’re looking forward to it.”

Patrick Mullins looking forward to Facile Vega – and American Mike showdown

A Willie Mullins-trained showdown with American Mike in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper is a prospect that is exciting Patrick Mullins.

Mullins junior is set to partner Facile Vega, a son of the brilliant racemare Quevega who has looked spectacular in his two starts so far, most recently at the Dublin Racing Festival, while Redemption Day is another highly-regarded challenger for the Mullins team.

But while Facile Vega is odds-on for the March 16 showpiece, fellow crack amateur Jamie Codd has hardly been able to contain his enthusiasm for the Gordon Elliott-trained American Mike, also unbeaten in his two bumpers.

“Facile Vega obviously has the best track form, but Redemption Day mirrors everything he does at home and I think James’s Gate has a lot of improvement in him so there are plenty of good spares there,” said Mullins, who is assistant to his father.

“I think Willie’s record is usually that the favourite gets beat and one of the other ones comes and beats him! It would be nice to get a third victory in the race as I think Ruby (Walsh) has three so it would be great to equal him.

“It’s going to be an excellent race and Jamie is unusually bullish about American Mike so it will be good to go head-to-head with him up the hill.”

On the pressure of preparing for the Festival, Mullins added: “The Lord Bagenal (local pub) is definitely a huge help and we’re all very thankful that it’s back open!

“My father has been at that pinnacle now for a few years and I think my mother is very good at humouring him and we know when to walk out of the kitchen and when to be in the kitchen, so we’ve all adapted well I think.”

Cheltenham the target for American Mike

American Mike stayed firmly on course for the Weatherbys Champion Bumper with victory in the Future Champions INH Flat Race at Navan.

Running in the colours of Noel and Valerie Moran’s Bective Stud, the Gordon Elliott-trained four-year-old made his debut under rules at Down Royal in October and was sent off at 1-8 under Jamie Codd to follow up.

Leading two furlongs out, the Mahler gelding strolled further clear to beat Battling Bessie by 17 lengths.

Betfair cut the winner to 3-1 from 7-2 for Cheltenham in March, and Elliott said: “I’m very happy with him and he’s done what we expected. I don’t think he could have done any more. Jamie said it was a proper race and they went a good gallop.

“He could go for the Dublin Racing Festival, but I’d say he’ll go straight to Cheltenham.

“I think he’s a proper horse.”

Elliott and the Morans had struck earlier on the card with Au Fleuron (7-2) in the Navan Ford Maiden Hurdle.

Elsewhere it was a landmark afternoon for 20-year-old Neil Ryan, as he rode a first winner over obstacles courtesy of Hugh Finegan’s Futurum Regem in the feature Tara Handicap Hurdle.

Only third jumping the last, the 16-1 chance stayed on well to beat Sassy Yet Classy and Bread And Butter by a neck and the same.

Ryan said: “I rode a winner at the Curragh this year (CrasssusCrassus) and that’s my first winner over hurdles – my first big ride.

“I’m working in Noel Meade’s full-time. Luckily enough Hughie’s nephew is in Noel’s as well and he helped to get me the ride.

“He jumped and travelled the whole way. I gave him a squeeze up the straight and he picked up. He toughed it out and seems to like it around here.”

Finegan added: “He’s a little horse, but just seems to be improving the whole time. The secret to him seems to be ground and weight. The ground was good and we’re lucky it hasn’t changed.

“The light weight really suited him as he’s not a big horse.”

He added: “I train only about 15 minutes down the road in Nobber. I have four horses for the track and a few point-to-pointers.”