Tag Archive for: Appreciate It

Mullins backing Facile Vega to make amends

Willie Mullins is confident Facile Vega can prove he has more than enough speed for two miles in the KPMG Champion Novice Hurdle at Punchestown on Tuesday.

A son of Walk In The Park out of the brilliant racemare Quevega, the six-year-old has always been held in the highest esteem by the champion trainer and has largely lived up to his reputation on the track.

He was unbeaten in four bumpers, including Grade One wins at the Cheltenham and Punchestown Festivals, and won his first starts over hurdles at Fairyhouse and Leopardstown.

But Facile Vega blotted his copyback when last of five finishers at the Dublin Racing Festival in February, a defeat Mullins put down to poor tactics, and while he was strongly fancied to bounce back to winning ways in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle last month he proved no match for Marine Nationale.

The latter defeat in particular, and the fact Quevega did most of her winning over long distances including four successive victories in the Champion Stayers Hurdle at Punchestown over three miles, has led some to question whether Facile Vega is now in need of a more searching test of stamina.

Mullins, though, has no fears about running his charge over the minimum trip.

“I’m not too worried about Facile Vega over two miles,” said the Closutton handler.

“I always thought Quevega had plenty of speed to win over two miles and I think she did earlier in her career in Punchestown, but we always went down the longer road with her because we had Hurricane Fly and Annie Power around that time.

“This fellow has plenty of speed. We saw that in Cheltenham, he was so fast down between the third-last and the second-last. He’s not short of speed. It’s just using it and it was just the way the race worked out in Cheltenham.”

Gordon Elliott has high hopes for Found A Fifty
Gordon Elliott has high hopes for Found A Fifty (Mike Egerton/PA)

Facile Vega is taken on by four rivals, including two stablemates in Diverge and Il Etait Temps, both of whom were not too far behind the hot favourite when third and fifth in the Supreme.

The field is completed by Oliver McKiernan’s outsider No Looking Back and and the Gordon Elliott-trained Found A Fifty, who failed to run up to expectations at Aintree less than a fortnight ago.

Elliott said: “Things just didn’t work out for Found A Fifty at Aintree. He’s a very talented animal and we didn’t see the best of him there and he’s one to be very excited about for the coming seasons.”

Mullins is also well represented in the Dooley Insurance Group Champion Novice Chase, fielding four of the six runners for a Grade One contest run over an extended three miles.

Appreciate It returns to the Naas winner's enclosure
Appreciate It returns to the Naas winner’s enclosure (Gary Carson/PA)

Stable jockey Paul Townend has seemingly sided with Appreciate It over the Cheveley Park Stud-owned pair of Classic Getaway (Danny Mullins) and Sir Gerhard (Patrick Mullins), while Daryl Jacob partners James Du Berlais for his retaining owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede.

Appreciate It has been beaten in Grade Ones at Leopardstown, Cheltenham and Fairyhouse since the turn of the year and Mullins appears more hopeful than confident that a hike in distance will do the trick.

He said: “Appreciate It disappointed me a little bit in Fairyhouse. It might be too much coming back again (16 days later), but we’ve nothing left to lose and we’ll just let him take his chance.

Sir Gerhard is a dual Cheltenham Festival winner
Sir Gerhard is a dual Cheltenham Festival winner (Mike Egerton/PA)

“He’s a fair sort, I think, on his day. You’d have thought going up to two and a half miles should be enough for him. Sometimes horses lose their form and he might be one of those. Maybe he wants a trip, but he won’t be going there fresh.

“It’s going to be a tough race. He’s one of the higher-rated horses in it, but a lot will depend on what he does.”

Sir Gerhard was just over four lengths in front of Appreciate It when second in the same WilllowWarm Gold Cup on Easter Sunday, while Classic Getaway has been off the track since making a successful chasing debut at at Gowran Park in November.

Naas Grade Three winner Journey With Me is a major contender for Henry de Bromhead, while Feronily also merits respect for Emmet Mullins.

Irish Arkle promises to be ‘most exciting race of the weekend’

Patrick Mullins considers Appreciate It as the clear pick of five runners for his father Willie in a fascinating renewal of the Goffs Irish Arkle at Leopardstown on Saturday.

Un De Sceaux (2015), Douvan (2016) and Footpad (2018) all claimed this Grade One prize en route to winning the Arkle at Cheltenham the following month, while last season’s Queen Mother Champion Chase hero Energumene (2021) also features on the roll of honour for the Mullins team.

The champion trainer appears intent on adding to his tally this weekend, with Appreciate It joined by a quartet of stablemates in Dysart Dynamo, El Fabiolo, Saint Roi and Flame Bearer.

“They’ve all had good wins over fences, so it will be interesting to see them all,” said Mullins senior.

“We were hoping to keep them apart, but they have to go for the prize-money. They’re all owned by different people and we’ll be happy if one of them can win.”

Appreciate It, who memorably landed the 2021 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle by 24 lengths, has bolted up over fences at Punchestown and Naas and is the choice of stable jockey Paul Townend.

Danny Mullins partners Dysart Dynamo, a 28-length winner over the course and distance on his chasing debut, while Daryl Jacob is aboard 19-length Fairyhouse scorer El Fabiolo for his retaining owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede.

Dysart Dynamo on his way to winning at Leopardstown last month
Dysart Dynamo on his way to winning at Leopardstown last month (Donall Farmer/PA)

The fact that the Mark Walsh-ridden Saint Roi won a Grade One at Leopardstown over Christmas and is widely available to back at double-figure odds is clear evidence of the strength in depth Mullins has at his disposal. Flame Bearer, a dual Grade Two-winning hurdler and the mount of Brian Hayes, is an even bigger price.

Patrick Mullins, assistant to his father, is fascinated to see how the race plays out, but is very much in the Appreciate It camp at this stage.

He said: “The Irish Arkle is probably the most exciting race of the weekend, and that is saying something. It’s the most competitive novice chase I’ve seen for a long, long time.

“We’ve Appreciate It, Dysart Dynamo, Flame Bearer, El Fabiolo and Saint Roi and they all deserve to be there. It is more than likely going to be very hectic, but I’m a big, big fan of Appreciate It and while there are a lot of very, very good horses in the race, I just think he could be the best of them.

“Willie went to walk the track on Thursday and he was very happy with what he saw.

“It’ll be very exciting to watch, there’s sure to be lots of pace but I think that will suit Appreciate It all the more.”

The horse bookmakers feel is most likely to upset the Mullins brigade is Joseph O’Brien’s Banbridge, who impressed in winning an Arkle trial at Cheltenham in November before finishing third in the Drinmore Novice Chase at Fairyhouse.

“It looks an outstanding novice chase – all the principals are there,” said O’Brien.

“Banbridge has earned his spot, I think, being a Grade Two winner this year. We’re looking forward to the race and hoping for a good run, too.

“Coming back in trip certainly won’t inconvenience him and I think nicer ground will help as well.”

Peter Fahey’s Visionarian and the Gordon Elliott-trained Fil Dor finished second and third respectively to Saint Roi last month and take him on again.

Fahey said: “He is going to have to improve, but the biggest thing with him – without wanting to put the mockers on him – is his jumping is so quick.

“He seems to be a quick and accurate jumper, which is a definite plus on his side. I think it will be run at a faster pace that it was at Christmas and fingers crossed he runs a big race.”

Fil Dor has won at Leopardstown before
Fil Dor has won at Leopardstown before (Niall Carson/PA)

Connections of Fil Dor are hoping the application of cheekpieces will help him raise his game.

Joey Logan, racing manager to owners Caldwell Construction Ltd, said: “The trip is possibly a bit sharp for him, but he’s in great form.

“He landed on the fence three out the last day and got a bad cut – it just didn’t work out for him.

“We’re putting cheekpieces on him to sharpen him up, so we’ll see how we go.

“It’s a very competitive race and we’ll know where we are afterwards, anyway.”

Appreciate It stakes Festival claim with stylish Naas verdict

Appreciate It cemented his Cheltenham Festival claims with a routine victory on his second start over fences at Naas.

A 24-length winner of the 2021 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Prestbury Park, the Willie Mullins-trained nine-year-old was due to pursue a novice chase campaign last season before injury intervened. He ultimately only made it to the track once – finishing seventh in the Champion Hurdle.

The son of Jeremy looked the part on his belated fencing bow at Punchestown last month, though, and was a 1-9 favourite to follow up in the Rathmore Stud Irish EBF Novice Chase.

Those who took the cramped odds will have had few concerns, with Paul Townend’s mount jumping soundly at the head of affairs throughout and passing the post with 21 lengths in hand over Gaelic Arc.

Paddy Power trimmed Appreciate It’s Arkle Trophy odds to 11-2 from 6-1, while he is 6-1 unchanged with the same firm for the longer Turners’ Novices’ Chase.

“The same as the last day, you’d love to get a lead on him. He’s idle in front and I was trying to teach him today, and win, without doing something silly,” said Townend.

“He showed me the last day that he’s there when I need him. It’s grand to get him out again and you’d have to be happy with everything he’s doing. Every day is experience for him.”

Mullins went on to complete a treble, with Champ Kiely carrying the Appreciate It colours of Michael Masterson to victory in the Lawlor’s of Naas Novice Hurdle in the hands of Danny Mullins before Hunters Yarn predictably outclassed his rivals in the I.N.H. Stallion Owners EBF Maiden Hurdle under Townend.

Hunters Yarn at Naas
Hunters Yarn at Naas (Gary Carson/PA)

The latter won twice in bumpers last season and improved from his third over hurdles at Punchestown on his latest outing to score by 13 lengths at cramped odds of 1-4.

Of Hunters Yarn, Townend added: “He got in underneath one or two (hurdles) but when I wanted him, and I was going on a stride up the straight, he was good and got better at it.

“If I had done that with him the first day he’d probably have won as well. He improved from his first run but I wasn’t happy with myself the first day.”

Telmesomethinggirl secured her first victory since scoring at the 2021 Cheltenham Festival with a determined display in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares Beginners Chase.

Four runners went to post for the two-mile-one-furlong contest, but it looked a match on paper and so it transpired, with 5-4 shot Telmesomethinggirl and 6-5 favourite Instit bossing proceedings.

The pair traded positions a few times during the course of the two-and-a-half-mile journey, with Instit the more assured in the jumping department for much of the way.

But a bad mistake from the latter when holding a narrow lead at the final obstacle opened the door for Henry de Bromhead’s Telmesomethinggirl and Rachael Blackmore and she went on to score by six lengths.

The other two runners, Choice Of Words and Pont Aval, failed to complete the course.

Telmesomethinggirl with connections at Naas
Telmesomethinggirl with connections at Naas (Gary Casron/PA)

“She didn’t jump with any kind of fluency at all, so we can definitely work on that,” said Blackmore.

“I thought turning in that I would definitely get there, but then I made a mess of the second-last. It’s a long way (home) after the last here as well and I knew if I got over the last, I’d have a chance.

“She’s got lots of ability, the way she jumped she wasn’t entitled to win. She has a lot of raw ability and hopefully we can improve her jumping.”

Cut The Rope made a successful debut for Paul Nolan in the concluding Fifty Stars Standing At Sunnyhill Stud (Pro/Am) INH Flat Race, ridden by 5lb claimer Eoin O’Brien.

James Nolan, assistant to his brother, said: “He’s a nice horse. We can’t take a whole lot of praise for this as we haven’t had him very long. We bought him off a gallop after Richard O’Brien recommended him to us.

“We made a mistake last year as Richard told us he’d win the bumper here with Impulsive Dancer and we didn’t act quickly enough. He won and Willie (Mullins) bought him. Thankfully we haven’t made the same mistake twice.

“He’s a lovely, relaxed horse. He showed a great attitude here today and is a real pro.

“Barry O’Neill would ride all our bumper horses, but part of the deal was that Eoin would keep the ride. He gave him a super ride and dictated everything in front.

“He’s a very likeable horse. We have no plans but he might go to Limerick for that Listed bumper.”

Monday Musings: Willie Mullings and A Plot Awry

The Dublin Racing Festival, two days of the best jump racing in Ireland and perfectly placed five weeks before Cheltenham to offer definitive clues about the likely destination of many of its major prizes, did its job this weekend, writes Tony Stafford.

It also made the more than considerable likelihood that Willie Mullins will see off Gordon Elliott as champion trainer once again in their homeland into a formality. Fifteen races, mostly Graded and bolstered by some very valuable and fiercely contested handicaps, were framed. Mullins won nine of them, four of seven on Saturday and five from eight yesterday.

Elliott won one, in his juvenile hurdle niche where he still has the stranglehold on Triumph Hurdle calculations after Mullins decided that he needed to give French Aseel a little more time to settle into the stable routine. Ruby Walsh, the most brilliant race reader (Flat and jumps to be fair) I’ve yet to encounter on television let us in on that secret when discussing the Elliott winner Quilixios, who has supplanted French Aseel as second favourite at 6-1 behind his unbeaten stable-companion Zanahiyr, a 5-2 chance.

But elsewhere at least three Mullins Cheltenham candidates cemented their claims on major prizes next month. Last year’s Albert Bartlett Hurdle winner, Monkfish, maintained his unblemished record over fences in the 2m 5.5f novice and is now an 11/10 shot for the Festival (RSA as was) Novices’ Chase over 3m1f. If you think he’ll go instead in the shorter Marsh Chase you can have 7/1. Don’t take it because he won’t!

Saturday’s bumper winner, Kilcruit, bred by Willie Mullins’ mother, is now the 6-4 favourite for the Festival Bumper after a 12-length romp under the breeder’s grandson Patrick in Saturday’s Grade 2 event. The only problem with taking that 6-4 is that there are sure to be other Mullins runners in the race; but they will need to be good to beat this one.

Incidentally, when he made his debut at Clonmel last season, Kilcruit was actually beaten, and at the time was trained by Willie’s brother and the rider’s uncle Tony, who had such a spectacular summer with the staying German-bred mare Princess Zoe, winner of the Group 1 Prix Du Cadran at Longchamp last autumn.

Kilcruit turned up in Willie’s string for his seasonal debut at Navan in December where he won by almost ten lengths and, up in grade, had even more real estate and a good deal of extra goodwill to spare over Saturday’s rivals.

A third certain Festival favourite will be yesterday’s easy novice hurdle winner, Appreciate It, now only 7/4 for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. All three of these will have been heavily linked in multiple bets but the bookmakers are far less likely to be wrong-footed by these as they clearly were over the weekend by a very well-planned and almost as well-executed three-horse bet that could easily have repercussions for the far-sighted originators, or unscrupulous conspirators, according to where you stand.

Late on Saturday night, bookmakers, among whom Bet Victor have come forward to declare their hand, were assailed online by punters all wanting to back three horses, I would imagine in singles and linked multiples.

In Saturday night’s early betting they were all outsiders with only one – the middle leg, Blowing Dixie, at Southwell – having any realistic credentials according to yesterday’s Racing Post analyses.

Anyway, the three horses were firstly Fire Away, a 20/1 chance in the newspaper’s betting but double that the night before. In his last runs in Ireland he had been 7th of 15, beaten 38 lengths at 20/1; 14th of 25, beaten 25 lengths at 66/1; 8th of 11, beaten 26 lengths at 16/1; 6th of 8, beaten 39 lengths at 8/1; and PU of 16 at 8/1.

Those runs in Ireland took place between November 19th 2019 and March 2nd 2020. Transferred to Daragh Bourke’s Scottish stable he had three runs in late summer. They were 10th of 15, beaten 51 lengths at 50/1; 7th of 10, beaten 61 lengths at 20/1; and, last time out on September 16th, he started 50/1 and pulled up in a field of 11. Over the period his rating had fallen from an initial mark of 116 to 98.

Yesterday he was making his debut for a new stable, having joined Laura Morgan’s team near Melton Mowbray from Bourke only 11 days before the race. “He had two horses for sale and I originally had a different one in mind but chose him. I’m delighted I did,” she told Racing TV, understandably as he won the race unchallenged by 18 lengths at even money!

Leg two, Blowing Dixie, had won four races at Southwell, all of them over a mile and a half when trained by Jane Chapple-Hyam but, even so, for an 80-rated four-year-old Fibresand specialist to realise as much as £50k at last year’s July Sales at Newmarket might seem rather surprising.

Fetch it he did and, switched to the ultra-shrewd Iain Jardine, Blowing Dixie began a busy autumn schedule running six times between early September and late November. His card reads 7th of 7, beaten 25 lengths at 80/1; 8th of 9, beaten 22 lengths at 66/1; 7th of 8, beaten 28 lengths at 10/1; 10th of 13, beaten 21 lengths at 66/1; 5th of 6, beaten 16 lengths at 66/1; and finally 8th of 9, beaten 25 lengths at 17/2.

Starting for Jardine on a mark of 80, by yesterday he was down 15lb to 65. A 12/1 shot in the Racing Post, he started 4/6 and won by an easy two and a half lengths. His most obvious market rival, Drew Breeze, winner of two of his previous three races, started slowly and was never nearer than fifth of the eight runners, beaten 16 lengths at 13/8.

Daragh Bourke also figured in the third member of the overnight triumvirate. A former £260,000 buy from Tattersalls Cheltenham sale in 2017 after winning an Irish point and Galway bumper, Gallahers Cross didn’t win for Nicky Henderson and was sold on for £40k.

Between June 2019 and January last year he ran five times for Bourke beginning with an 8th of 9, beaten 48 lengths at 7/1, when the gloss of the decent placed Henderson form had not properly worn off. Next came an 8th of 10, beaten 62 lengths at 20/1; 11th of 12, beaten 54 lengths at 28/1; 7th of 7, beaten 39 lengths at 16/1; and, finally, last month, 7th of 8, beaten 50 lengths at 9/1. This time the official reaction to the string of poor performances was a reduction from 115 to 90.

So it is possible, even on the scantiest of scrutiny, to discern a pattern. Each of the three horses had a series of very poor runs from their respective (two, close together) bases in Scotland in the latter half of last year, and all three dropped just over a stone in the ratings and suddenly found form enough on the home gallops to persuade certain people to want to back them, and all on the same day.

The only thing that went wrong – possibly denying winning trebles into the thousands of odds against – was that Gallahers Cross, a 4-5 shot at the off, could finish only fourth of the seven runners, behind an all-the-way Paul Nicholls top-weight winner, Get The Appeal. Like Gallahers Cross, Get The Appeal is a son of Getaway.

As someone who set up a multiple bet many years ago which foundered at the final leg of four (when a future – two runs later! – Group 1 winner ridden by a multiple champion jockey finished unplaced), I can sympathise with those who thought their big pay day had come. On the other hand, any one of them whom I happen to know who didn’t bother to let me in on it – serves you right! But then, as with our try all those years ago that involved physically covering 300 betting shops, rather than pushing a few buttons on computers, two out of three isn’t bad.

Finally, it just remains to question how can any horse beat Honeysuckle in the Champion Hurdle after Saturday’s romp in the Irish Champion, a victory far more emphatic than last year’s? Tough, with plenty of stamina and unbeaten in one point-to-point and ten runs under Rules, surely the Henry De Bromhead mare can give Rachael Blackmore the distinction of being the first woman to win the Champion Hurdle. Sorry Epatante, unless Nico can contrive to make this a speed rather than a stamina test, her crown definitely looks to rest precariously on her head.

As Liverpool FC are finding, it’s one thing to win a championship, quite another successfully to defend it.