Tag Archive for: Emmet Mullins

Randox Grand National – What connections say

The eyes of the racing world will be focussed on Aintree at 4pm on Saturday for what promises to be another pulsating renewal of the Randox Grand National. Here are the thoughts of some of the connections hoping to strike gold in the world’s most famous steeplechase:

Trainer Emmet Mullins – Noble Yeats (11st 12lb)

Jockey Sam Waley-Cohen celebrates winning the 2022 Grand National on Noble Yeats
Jockey Sam Waley-Cohen celebrates winning the 2022 Grand National on Noble Yeats (David Davies/PA)

“Noble is great, he got the ferry over on Thursday. He’s had a good prep and came out of Cheltenham very well. The ground has to be seen as a bit of a negative as his best form is on nice spring ground, but he’s in good form and hopefully he’ll run a good race.

“He’s got top-weight now but he’s only got 1lb more to carry than if Conflated was running so that’s neither here nor there. He’s got the weight for a good reason and ran a brilliant race with similar last year.

“Hopefully the route we’ve gone this year, Stayers’ Hurdle rather than Gold Cup, will just leave him that little bit fresher.”

Trainer Gordon Elliott – Coko Beach (11st 8lb), Delta Work (11st 4lb), Galvin (11st 2lb), Farouk D’Alene (11st 1lb), Minella Crooner (10st 10lb), Chemical Energy (10st 9lb), The Goffer (10st 8lb)

Gordon Elliott has high hopes for Delta Work
Gordon Elliott has high hopes for Delta Work (Tim Goode/PA)

“To be honest the ground has gone against a few of then, Galvin would have loved a bit of better ground. Delta Work and Coko Beach are probably the pick of them on the ground.

“Coko Beach loves the mud, he’s probably not that well handicapped but hopefully he’ll run well.

“I’m really happy with Delta, he’s never been working as well and I haven’t had him moving as well in the last two years. I’m looking forward to it.”

Trainer Henry de Bromhead – Minella Indo (11st 6lb), Ain’t That A Shame (10st 13lb), Eklat De Rire (10st 7lb)

Minella Indo (left) winning the 2021 Cheltenham Gold Cup
Minella Indo (left) winning the 2021 Cheltenham Gold Cup (Michael Steele/PA)

“Minella Indo would obviously have a squeak, he has a good chance on his best form.

“Ain’t That A Shame ran well in the race last year, David Maxwell is on him and hopefully he’ll give him a good spin round. He was very good in the Thyestes.

“Eklat De Rire was disappointing at Cheltenham, we felt he was coming back before that. He’s in good form and we’re hoping that type of race will bring him back.

“I think drying ground would suit Indo, probably the other two like a bit of dig in the ground.”

Trainer Dan Skelton – Galia Des Liteaux (10st 7lb)

Galia Des Liteaux bids to aid Dan Skelton's bid to be champion trainer
Galia Des Liteaux bids to aid Dan Skelton’s bid to be champion trainer (Mike Egerton/PA)

“She loves the soft ground and I think she’ll stay the trip, you can never absolutely certain until they have but everything about her says she’ll stay it.

“She’s in great form and we’ve trained her specifically for it, just like everyone else in the race has. There are no negatives.

“There’s a lot of water to go under that bridge (trainers’ championship), but having good chances at this meeting with the prize-money on offer there is obviously very important.”

Jockey James Reveley – Roi Mage (10st 8lb)

Roi Mage jumps Becher's Brook in last year's Grand National
Roi Mage jumps Becher’s Brook in last year’s Grand National (Tim Goode/PA)

“He’s a horse I’ve ridden a few times and I know quite well. I’d ridden him in France and I thought he’d be a good National type.

“I think things have gone a bit better for him this year, his last run was good, very solid, and I liked how he stayed on to the line.

“They campaign him quietly, they don’t over-race him and that’s good for an older horse. He enjoys his life with the Griffins in Ireland and I’m quietly confident.”

Trainer Gary Moore – Nassalam (11st 8lb)

Nassalam relished deep ground when winning the Welsh National
Nassalam relished deep ground when winning the Welsh National (David Davies/PA)

“He couldn’t be in a better place at home and I’m really happy with him. Everything has gone to plan except the sun has come out and it’s drying the ground out and I can’t see any rain about.

“The fact he’s got so much weight, it will be easier to carry it on better ground. But he is a stone better horse on heavy ground and it just limits his chances a bit to be honest.

“I would rather have deep ground and he will probably have two things against him now – the weight and the ground.”

Trainer Tom Ellis – Latenightpass (10st 10lb)

Latenightpass has a great Aintree record
Latenightpass has a great Aintree record (David Davies/PA)

“It’s a big day and arguably our biggest, but I’m looking forward to it.

“We’ve had a really good run with him coming into the race to be fair and we’ve had a nice run with him.

“He looks really well and he’s done all his work now and we’ve had this in mind since December. It’s just been a case of following the plan since.

“The fences and the course are not a worry with him, but the ground would be a slight concern. Although it’s the same for them all and at least Latenightpass has won on soft and heavy before anyway. Hopefully he will run well.”

Assistant trainer Patrick Mullins – I Am Maximus (11st 6lb), Meetingofthewaters (10st 8lb), Mr Incredible (10st 11lb), Stattler (11st 5lb)

I Am Maximus is one of the powerful Willie Mullins National string
I Am Maximus is one of the powerful Willie Mullins National string (Damien Eagers/PA)

“It’s obviously going to dry up before Saturday and I imagine it will be sticky rather than wet.

“I Am Maximus has a big engine but I’m not sure how his jumping will stand up. In the Irish National he jumped himself out of it in the first two miles then got back into it but that is a lot harder to do over here. His best form seems to be right-handed at Fairyhouse even though he jumps left so he has a few questions to answer.

“Meetingofthewaters I think has a great profile, he is a young horse and unexposed and it was a great run at Cheltenham. He’ll have to settle and that will be a big thing for him – he was a bit keen at Cheltenham. I think he has a lovely racing weight and he’s right down the bottom really.

“Mr Incredible is a bit of a maverick and the standing start is a bit of a concern for him, he doesn’t need any encouragement to stand still for any length of time. If he does jump off, he was running a cracker here last year and this place lights him up a bit so you would have to take him seriously as well.

“I’m riding Stattler and I would have to worry about the ground for him, it will need to dry up. For me the National is the race that counts and if you are not in it you can’t win it. Any chance I get to ride in it, I’ll be taking it ”

Trainer Mouse Morris – Foxy Jacks (11st 4lb)

Foxy Jacks was a good winner at Cheltenham in November
Foxy Jacks was a good winner at Cheltenham in November (David Davies/PA)

“It’s been a very lucky place for me, I’ve had a good few winners here and I’ve been lucky enough to win the big one before.

“Foxy Jacks is jumping super and he gave an exhibition at Cheltenham in the cross-country (in November). The handicapper hasn’t been good to him and gave him 8lb for winning the cross-country and I think Hewick only got 2lb for winning the King George so I can’t work out the mathematics.

“It’s a big day and a big race so we will let him take his chance. He’s 10 now and very easy to train now so I’m not worried (about the cross-country being cancelled at the Cheltenham Festival).

“He probably won’t be at his best in the ground and I think it is whoever gets round that will win. We live and dream, there’s no point sleeping if you don’t dream.”

National hero Noble Yeats has Stayers’ Hurdle in his sights

Emmet Mullins insists the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle is more than just a stepping stone to the Randox Grand National for Noble Yeats.

The nine-year-old was the Aintree hero in 2022 but finished fourth last year when saddled with 11st 11lb in the four-and-a-quarter-mile contest, a 19lb higher mark than the previous year.

Noble Yeats prepped for that title defence by finishing a distant fourth in the Cheltenham Gold Cup and went on to run down the field in the Grand Steeplechase de Paris, leading to a later start to his campaign and a Stayers’ Hurdle bid.

Beaten as an odds-on favourite on his seasonal bow, Noble Yeats roared back to form when edging out the ever-popular Paisley Park in a thrilling finish to the Cleeve Hurdle and Mullins believes that result puts him right in the mix for top honours at the Festival.

Noble Yeats with connections after his Cleeve Hurdle win
Noble Yeats with connections after his Cleeve Hurdle win (Nigel French/PA)

He said: “He’s bouncing – he definitely improved a lot from the first time up at Limerick at Christmas. He would have needed that plenty and he definitely improved between then and the Cleeve Hurdle, hopefully he should come on again.

“That was always the plan. He was late back into training as we had such a big campaign last spring and I said to Robert (Waley-Cohen, owner) back in October, we had been put in our place in the Gold Cup last year and I couldn’t see a way past those horses this time around, so we changed direction.

“I’m not saying he’s going to win the Stayers’ Hurdle either but I think he could run a good race in it. I suppose Gordon’s (Elliott) horses are still unexposed, I thought Irish Point was impressive stepping up at Christmas.”

While Aintree in April is likely his ultimate aim, Mullins is not compromising on his preparations for the Stayers’.

He added: “It’s a target in it’s own right. It definitely won’t be as demanding a race as the Gold Cup but we’re definitely training for the Stayers’ as a race in it’s own right.

“I think we were quietly confident going into the Cleeve, and I said to Robert that if we didn’t lay down a marker we’d not deserve our spot in the race, so it was good to see that he did.”

Corbetts Cross holds a clutch of novice chase entries at the Festival but his build up suffered a blow when taking a fall at Fairyhouse last week.

Mullins pointed out Corbetts Cross is the only National Hunt Chase entry for owner JP McManus, but he is unsure how much a mark that tumble has left.

He said: “He seems none the worse for the race so it’s just taking it one day at a time. Physically he looks OK and I suppose we will take our time and we won’t be schooling him for another bit of time – fingers crossed there’s no lasting damage done.

“I can’t really say (if it will be too tight for Cheltenham) without schooling him. He’s a very versatile horse. He has form beating Found A Fifty over a mile and seven in Naas last year and he has form winning over three miles. We will just keep all options open for now.

“He’s got a high quality cruising speed, so if his jumping stands up to it he can always come back in trip a bit.

“He was JP’s only entry in the National Hunt Chase, so I think he’s keen enough on going there.”

Mullins ranks So Scottish among his possible handicap contenders, expecting to travel “four or five” but Leopardstown bumper winner Jeroboam Machin will not be among them after suffering a season-ending injury.

The trainer has the distinction of having ridden a Festival winner in 2011 Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle victor Sir Des Champs and saddled a victor in The Shunter, winner of the 2021 Plate at a meeting run without spectators during the pandemic.

Mullins added: “It’s a special place. Training the winner was during Covid so there was no one there but it still hit home on the day. I got a big kick out of it even though there was no crowd there.”

Jeroboam Machin powers to head of Cheltenham Bumper market

Emmet Mullins appears to have another potential star on his hands given the way Jeroboam Machin cruised to victory in the Donohue Marquees Future Stars I.N.H. Flat Race at Leopardstown.

Continuing the dominance of the Mullins family on the opening day, Mullins’ uncle Willie was responsible for four winners, while cousin Danny rode three of them. This time is was Grand National winner Emmet taking the limelight.

The race saw the reappearance of last year’s winner, A Dream To Share, who went on to follow up at Cheltenham and Punchestown. But despite being sent off the 8-11 favourite, a repeat victory never looked likely.

Jeroboam Machin (12-1) was ridden by Derek O’Connor, who sported the light blue colours of Paul Byrne, owner in their early days of the likes of National hero Noble Yeats and The Shunter.

Having travelled sweetly to the lead, he had no problem in pulling four and a quarter lengths clear of You Oughta Know.

So impressive was the win that a number of firms promoted him to favouritism for the championship event at Cheltenham.

Mullins said: “Watching him work the last few weeks wouldn’t inspire confidence and I think I said the same after his debut, he doesn’t show much at home.

“But any time we take him away he lights up and I don’t mind what he does at home if he saves his best for the track.

“He’s green but I don’t know if that will come out of him, he comes up the gallop at home as quick with a 90-rated horse as he does a 140-horse, that’s just him. I’m just glad he’s got that bit of class.

“There’s plenty of horses we have that fall by the wayside, but Paul’s very good, he gives me free rein. I picked this lad out of an auction point-to-point which may not have been that sexy, but I loved the way he winged the last that day.”

When asked if he could go to Cheltenham, he said: “Well we came in the right-hand side of the parade ring instead of the left today, so we could go either way!”

Waley-Cohen in awe of unorthodox ‘genius’ Emmet Mullins

Owner Robert Waley-Cohen has hailed the genius of Emmet Mullins after his Grand National hero Noble Yeats forced his way into the Stayers’ Hurdle mix when claiming a thrilling Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham.

Making just his third appearance over the smaller obstacles, the nine-year-old was the recipient of significant support in the week leading up to the Grade Two event and was sent off the 3-1 second-favourite behind the evergreen market leader Paisley Park.

It was the two main betting protagonists that would ultimately fight out a brilliant conclusion to a contest that saw six of the seven involved in with a shout jumping the last, before Noble Yeats and Paisley Park’s staying power saw them come to the fore with the post approaching.

Only a head separated the two warriors at the finish, as Mullins pulled off another successful raid on one of the calendar’s big races.

“Emmet, as we all know, is unorthodox, but with brilliance, and what could be more thrilling than Saturday,” said Waley-Cohen.

“It was an unbelievable race and it was literally down to the last stride. You could have taken quite a big bet turning into the home straight that the three in front wouldn’t finish in the first three. I was sorry we spoiled Paisley Park’s party, but not very.

“It was only his third ever hurdle race and he wouldn’t be as quick and slick as some of those pros. However, he ran vigorously up the hill and I don’t think he quickened as much as Paisley Park, but interestingly, if you look at after the finish, he goes right away from Paisley Park.

“I don’t think he saw Paisley Park on the far side of the course. I think he thought he had the horses near him beaten and didn’t see the others because as soon as he crossed the line and they came close together he went on again.”

Noble Yeats returns after victory at Cheltenham
Noble Yeats returns after victory at Cheltenham (PA)

He went on: “He was getting 6lb on the day from Paisley Park and that perhaps made all the difference, but that’s where Emmet’s genius lies because traditionally you would go hurdles, regulation steeplechase fences and then occasionally the best go to the Grand National.

“No one does it the other way round. He’s won a Grand National, so then going for a Grade Two hurdle is not normal.”

Noble Yeats was campaigned aggressively following his Grand National triumph in 2022, treading a path that saw his Aintree defence sandwiched by tilts at both the Cheltenham Gold Cup and Grand Steeple-Chase de Paris last season.

Connections have plumped for a more considered route to Merseyside this time around and having been kept under wraps until running at Limerick over the Christmas period, he will continue to ply his trade over timber with a crack at the Stayers’ Hurdle set to tee-up this year’s Grand National bid.

“It was a great thrill (to win the Cleeve) and he had a very hard season last year,” continued Waley-Cohen.

“He won a Listed race at Wexford, won the Many Clouds Chase, came third in the Cotswold Chase, fourth in the Gold Cup, fourth in the Grand National and picked up money in the Grand Steeple. That is one hell of a year and he needed a properly good break afterwards.

“He came back to my place in Warwickshire and had a proper break and lots of TLC and we decided we needed a much more conservative plan this year and not run him at all until after Christmas.

“The race at Limerick didn’t suit him at all and he didn’t like the ground or the course, but Saturday just played into his hands.

“He’s entitled to take his chance (in the Stayers’), but whatever the outcome it will be great step to the National. It’s a better step for him than anything else and it sounds a bit bizarre to say a Grade One race is a prep, but it looks the suitable race.”

Noble Yeats and connections after winning at Cheltenham
Noble Yeats and connections after winning at Cheltenham (Nigel French/PA)

Noble Yeats is as short as 8-1 for the Stayers’ Hurdle and although he produced a performance that warrants his place in the Festival’s day three main event, Waley-Cohen has considerable respect for the Gordon Elliott-trained duo that are currently heading the ante-post betting.

He added: “I suspect when we are back at level weights there will be a few young horses from Ireland coming over and you don’t have to be a genius to fathom out that Teahupoo and Irish Point are really nice horses on the upgrade.

“One great thing Harry (Cobden) did riding him on Saturday, was ride him into hurdles with absolute confidence and the horse absolutely revelled in coming up that hill, so who knows, we dream, we always do.

“But in terms of getting to the National in first-class order, it’s a very good option and the National is really the target.

“Many would just go to something like the Bobbyjo (Chase) which is a recognised route to the National, but being the man he is, Emmet thinks this is the better route – he is definitely unorthodox.”

Noble Yeats denies Paisley Park in Cleeve Hurdle thriller

Grand National winner Noble Yeats denied Paisley Park a fourth victory in the McCoy Contractors Cleeve Hurdle in a rousing finish at Cheltenham.

Trainer Emmet Mullins has proven time and again he is prepared to think outside the box and the 2022 Aintree hero was having just his third run over hurdles in this contest.

With regular jockey Sean Bowen currently on the sidelines, Harry Cobden stepped in for the ride and he looked to be going nowhere with half a mile to go as Dashel Drasher, Champ and Botox Has tried to run the finish out of the others.

The complexion of the race changed at the last though, as Noble Yeats (3-1), Paisley Park and Strong Leader, who was nearly detached at one point, came back into contention.

Noble Yeats found a few lengths after the last but Paisley Park was staying on relentlessly having been outpaced turning in.

However, despite the popular veteran’s best efforts, the line just came too soon and he went down by a head.

“It was a brilliant race with two, tough, genuine horses running right to the line – I think other people may have enjoyed it more than I did,” said Mullins.

“I’d imagine we’ll be back here in March and we had to come here and do that to lay down our claim. He will be in with a shout and all roads will lead back to the National again after that.

“Since we started back this year, this has kind of been the route (we were thinking). I said to Robert (Waley-Cohen, owner) before we ran this year, we would go for the Stayers’ first (before the National) and skip the Gold Cup. I think people were surprised when they saw he didn’t have an entry for the Gold Cup but the Stayers’ Hurdle has been the plan all season.

“He stays well and the New course here lends itself to that kind of running and galloping, it’s a thorough test on that track and that suits him.”

Noble Yeats has a National repeat as his ultimate aim
Noble Yeats has a National repeat as his ultimate aim (Nigel French/PA)

Noble Yeats had not got his head in front since winning the Many Clouds Chase at Aintree in December 2022 and Mullins was pleased to get a win on the board, feeling his charge’s limitations had been exposed at the top level over fences last term.

He added: “It’s great to see him get his head back in-front again and they were serious tests we asked him in the Gold Cup, Grand National and in the Grand Steeple-Chase de Paris, he ran a great race there and picked up some more prize-money and he didn’t come home without a cheque all year. It’s great to give him some confidence.

“We’ve had our crack at the Gold Cup and got put in our place and we’re probably 10lb off the top in that bracket, so the Stayers’ is the next logical place to look and, fingers crossed, we’re in with a chance.

“There are no rules in this game and it is great to use all the great races.”

Paisley Park was registering his third narrow defeat of the campaign, having been beaten a head in the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury and a short head in the Long Walk at Ascot last month.

Emma Lavelle’s pride in her charge was evident and she was touched by the reception Paisley Park received on returning to the unsaddling enclosure.

“The crowd lift him, but just not enough, we need them to shout louder,” she said.

“It’s the most emotional thing and the noise of the people calling for him and shouting for him, we just need him to try harder. He’s 12 years old and has just been beaten a head in his fifth Cleeve Hurdle and how am I ever going to have a horse like that.

“I was fine, then I walked in there (the winner’s enclosure) and people started shouting how much they love Paisley and now I just want to start crying. He is so special and he just tries his heart out.

“Maybe he’s just saving himself for the big one (Stayers’ Hurdle), but it will be a tough gig and I felt today might have been his real day this year.

“To consistently be coming out this season running like that means he’s still got it.

“They didn’t go much of a gallop and they were all sort of on top of each other and then quickened and he’s got caught for toe and then all he’s done is stay on again. He just needs an even gallop.

“I think all he’s done is stay on and just been done for a bit of toe.”

Stayers’ Hurdle could be potential route to Aintree for Noble Yeats

The Stayers’ Hurdle has emerged as an unorthodox potential stepping-stone to a third tilt at the Randox Grand National for Noble Yeats.

The eight-year-old won the world’s most famous steeplechase at Aintree in 2022 and finished fourth in both the Cheltenham Gold Cup and when defending his Grand National crown last season.

Making his first appearance since the Grand Steeple-Chase de Paris in May, Noble Yeats reverted to the smaller obstacles at Limerick over the festive period – and while beaten by Sa Majeste as the 10-11 favourite, his owner Robert Waley-Cohen was satisfied with the performance.

“It was a very good first run of the season,” he said.

“I don’t think he really likes that very heavy going as it was at Limerick, but we had to start somewhere and hopefully we’ll get some better ground later in the year.”

Connections decided against entering Noble Yeats for the Gold Cup this time around, but Waley-Cohen has raised the intriguing possibility of him turning up in another major event at the Cheltenham Festival.

He added: “We’re going to enter for the Stayers’ Hurdle – if you don’t enter you can’t decide whether to go for it when the time comes.

“His main target for the year is still the Grand National. The Gold Cup is a tough race and the Grand National is a tough race and I think winning both in the same year is nigh on impossible.

Robert Waley-Cohen with the Grand National trophy
Robert Waley-Cohen with the Grand National trophy (Brian Lawless/PA)

“He was fourth in both last year, which was a fantastic performance, but I’d be more excited about winning one than being fourth in two!

“I don’t think he’s going to win a Gold Cup. He’s a 166-rated horse, the average Gold Cup winner is probably 175 and the very good ones might be closer to 180.”

Whether Noble Yeats runs over hurdles or fences on his next start remains to be seen, with Waley-Cohen keen to keep all options open.

He said: “We might put him in the Cleeve Hurdle, or if you want a chase where you require a lot of stamina you could look at the Cotswold Chase, in which he finished third last season.

“Let’s wait and see, but everything is being geared towards getting to the Grand National in first-class order to give ourselves the best possible chance.”

Noble Yeats shows promise in defeat with future in mind

Emmet Mullins will work back from another tilt at the Randox Grand National with Noble Yeats following his pleasing return to action at Limerick.

The eight-year-old won the world’s most famous steeplechase at Aintree in 2022 and finished fourth in both the Cheltenham Gold Cup and when defending his Grand National crown last season.

Making his first appearance since the Grand Steeple-Chase de Paris in May, Noble Yeats reverted to the smaller obstacles for the Party Time Hurdle – and while his stable star was beaten by Sa Majeste as a 10-11 favourite, Mullins was satisfied with his performance.

He said: “He took a blow, needed it and hopefully that gets the season going and we can target the spring festivals on better ground.

“He ran his race, was bang there to the second-last hurdle, which he missed, but took a blow after that and needed the run.

“Hopefully there is more to come with him.”

Mullins appears less keen on preparing his charge for the Gold Cup as he looks to get him back to Aintree in April at the top of his game.

He added: “It didn’t work taking in both last season, so I’m thinking about the Grand National more so this year.

“Today’s race was over two and a half miles and on that ground it will leave its mark on him, so we won’t be rushing him back.”

The Simon Torrens-ridden Sa Majeste (11-2) was one of four winners on the card for Mullins’ uncle Willie, with Adrian Heskin aboard Judicieuse Allen and Hauturiere and Jody Townend in the saddle for bumper winner Hens Tooth (4-9).

Judicieuse Allen finished with a wet sail to justify 6-5 favouritism in the Goggin Buckley Mares Maiden Hurdle, while Hauturiere (11-2) took Grade Two honours with a dominant display in the McMahons Builders Providers Irish EBF Dawn Run Mares Novice Chase.

Heskin said: “I am very grateful to Willie for the opportunities today. I knew at the start of the season it wouldn’t be easy to get going (back in Ireland), but I’m getting great support from a lot of smaller trainers.

“That (Judicieuse Allen) was my first ride for Willie. I ride out two days a week there, a day a week in Henry De Bromhead’s and another day in Tony Martin’s and anywhere I can for the other days.

“It is great to be getting the backing of Willie Mullins and after today’s winners, it has been a good year.”

A treble at Leopardstown meant Mullins enjoyed an across-the-card seven-timer in all.

Slate Lane reported to have avoided infection in tendon injury

Slate Lane appears to have avoided infection to the injury which has likely ended his career.

The Emmet Mullins-trained five-year-old had improved at a rate of knots and won his fourth race in succession since joining his new stable when successful at Haydock last weekend in a valuable event.

However, on returning to the paddock it was clear that Slate Lane had picked up an injury and unfortunately it emerged he had severed a tendon by striking into himself.

“He’s staved off the infection. We had a bit of a fright on Tuesday night but he’s OK,” said Mullins.

“We’ve had one surgery, we didn’t need to do a second flushing of the joint. It’s as good as can be hoped for at this time.

“There is 50 per cent damage done to the tendon, but in terms of life-threatening we’ve had good news that there is no infection in the joint.

“It’s a case of saving the horse and that is all that is on our mind at the moment.”

Corbetts Cross opens fencing account at Fairyhouse

Corbetts Cross won what seems sure to prove an informative Jim Ryan Racecourse Services Beginners Chase at Fairyhouse.

Trained by Emmet Mullins, he was sent off the 9-4 favourite for last season’s Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle before crashing through the wing of the final flight when still holding every chance.

The six-year-old faced some stern opposition for this second start over fences, with Gordon Elliot’s Three Card Brag, Willie Mullins’ Nick Rockett and Henry de Bromhead’s Monty’s Star all highly thought of.

Corbetts Cross (2-1) ultimately won with a bit in hand for Mark Walsh as, jumping the last with a length to find on Three Card Brag who set the pace, he only had to be given a flick to quicken up smartly.

He won by three-quarters of a length from Three Card Brag with two and a half lengths back to Monty’s Star.

The winner was cut to 8-1 from 16s for the Turners at Cheltenham by Betfair and is 10s from 20s for the Brown Advisory.

“I suppose the run under his belt was a big advantage there. It’s tough going out there and that was probably the difference in it,” said Mullins.

“Getting a win in these beginners chases in Ireland is very difficult and they are all top-class races. I won’t necessarily be that confident the next day once they have a run under their belt.

“It’s great to get today out of the way and we can go on to bigger races hopefully.”

Corbetts Cross was the first leg of a treble for Walsh in the green and gold JP McManus colours.

De Bromhead’s Waterford Whispers (4-1) came with a wet sail in the Close Brothers Rated Novice Hurdle, while Willie Mullins’ Risk Belle (7-4) appeared the stable second string in the Grade Three WillowWarm Hurdle.

Unfortunately stable companion Gust Of Wind suffered a fatal injury when falling after jumping the third-last.

The winner, however, third in the Fred Winter at Cheltenham, was ultimately very impressive.

“I was very pleased with that performance and think she has improved nicely from last season,” said Mullins.

“She jumped well and Mark was very happy that she was going well all the way.

“Her handicap experience would have been a benefit to her and she likes this track, too.”

Slate Lane ‘doing everything right’ ahead of Haydock test

Slate Lane will bid for an imperious four-timer in the Betfair “Serial Winners” Stayers’ Handicap Hurdle, as Emmet Mullins attempts to get his hands on another major handicap prize at Haydock on Saturday.

Unbeaten since joining the Grand National-winning trainer in the summer, the five-year-old has been no stranger to British shores, making three successful raids at some of the minor tracks.

He now steps up in class for his toughest assignment to date in a race won by some fine operators over the years.

“He’s been good and won three out of three. He’s doing everything right,” said Mullins.

“It’s a big ask to win four on the bounce, but hopefully he can run well at least.

“We’re very hopeful, we’ve not done much at home with him (since his last run) and we even gave him a run in a charity race in between to keep him ticking over and all is good.”

Disputing favouritism for the £125,000 contest is Fergal O’Brien’s Crambo, who won a competitive renewal of the EBF Final at Sandown in March and got the better of the reopposing Santos Blue when making a successful return at Aintree last month.

Always held in high regard, this event will give a decent indication of what calibre of performer Crambo really is.

“We’re excited to go to Haydock,” said O’Brien. “He finished very well last year, winning the EBF Final, and although it didn’t happen for him at Aintree in the spring, he came back out at Aintree and ran a lovely race there.

“It’s a step up to three miles and it will answer a lot of questions and tell us where to go from there.

“He’s got a lot of weight on Saturday, so if he runs well off that, we know he’s a good horse, it is just whether he is a handicapper or a Graded horse. Hopefully, Saturday will tell us.”

Little separated Alan King’s Emitom and Nicky Henderson’s Bold Endeavour when they finished second and third at Newbury recently and both are consistent performers in these contests, while Willie Mullins will also saddle a raider from Ireland in the form of the reappearing Fine Margin.

Meanwhile, Dubrovnik Harry will attempt to leave a disappointing 2022-23 season well behind and build on his encouraging comeback fourth at Cheltenham last month.

“We were pleased with his reappearance and he gets to go again off the same mark,” said trainer Harry Fry.

“It’s a competitive field, as you would expect for the prize-money on offer.

“Last year didn’t happen for him, but we’re hoping he can go and give a good account of himself.”

The likes of Politologue, Clan Des Obeaux and Bravemansgame have all previously won the Betfair Exchange Graduation Chase and there could be another high-class winner with a top-quality field of five assembled for action.

Cheltenham Festival winner and Grand National third Gaillard Du Mesnil is the proven performer over fences, but there are some unknown quantities full of potential amongst the opposition, none more so than Lucinda Russell’s Apple Away.

The Old Gold Racing-owned mare scooped Grade One honours at Aintree in the spring and has now been pitched in at the deep-end for her chasing bow, with connections dreaming she will make an immediate impression in her new discipline.

“We’re very much looking forward to it and the confidence coming from Lucinda and Scu (Peter Scudamore) is heartening,” said James Day, chief operating officer and co-founder of Old Gold Racing.

“You can really see their confidence in her, given the race she has been declared for, which is a pretty big one for going over fences for the first time.

“She’s had a few entries over the last few weeks and they’ve been very sensible with their approach to make sure she gets off on the right foot, that’s really important.

“Winning the Sefton Novices’ Hurdle was amazing and she is showing in her training that she has all the makings of a proper chaser, although the proof is always in the pudding.”

Dan Skelton also has high hopes for Grey Dawning, who strung a three-race winning sequence together over hurdles last term and was not disgraced on his chasing bow when bumping into Paul Nicholls’ Stay Away Fay.

“We’re happy with him and obviously he is coming back quickly (after Exeter), but I don’t think that will be a problem,” said Skelton.

“He needed the run a little bit at Exeter and I was very happy with the way he jumped and did everything that day. He just took a little bit of a blow and Stay Away Fay and the other horse got the better of him late on, which is an acceptable first run.

“It’s quite a competitive race, but it wants to be for £50,000 at the end of the day. It would be very easy to go for a standard novice chase somewhere and maybe he does that later in the season if he needs to.

“We would just prefer to take on some bigger and better races and see where we get to – and he will be getting some experience under his belt.”

The action on Merseyside begins with the Grade Two Betfair Racing Podcasts Newton Novices’ Hurdle, where Henry Daly’s Bowenspark could enhance his burgeoning reputation.

“He did it nicely at Stratford and let’s hope he can do it again,” said Daly.

“Like when you start with all these things, you have got to find out as you go along how you are getting on.

“He won a couple of bumpers and was probably a bit unlucky at Aintree. The form looks very solid, so hopefully he continues to progress.”

Noble Yeats to return in new year

Noble Yeats will not be seen until the new year when he will once again be geared towards the Randox Grand National.

The first seven-year-old National winner since 1940 when triumphing on Merseyside in the hands of Sam Waley-Cohen in 2022, he relished the Aintree fences once again when a keeping on fourth behind Corach Rambler in the defence of his title earlier in the year.

However, he has been given plenty of time to recover from a busy 2022-23 season and having just returned to trainer Emmet Mullins, will not be rushed back into action.

“He had a hard season last year so he’s had an extended summer break and has only just arrived back to me earlier this month,” explained Mullins.

“We won’t see him until after Christmas and I would imagine all roads will lead back to Aintree.”

Noble Yeats could return over hurdles in the new year as connections plot a path back to Aintree, with another crack at Auteuil’s Grand Steeple-Chase de Paris – in which he was a running-on seventh in 2023 – also on the agenda.

Noble Yeats on his way to winning the Grand National
Noble Yeats on his way to winning the Grand National (David Davies/PA)

Mullins added: “There’s no races really in mind and I might even take in a conditions hurdle – he’s won one maiden hurdle – and start him off slowly and build up to the National and then back to France.

“They are two aims for the back-end of the season.”

Noble Yeats entered the Gold Cup reckoning when landing the Many Clouds Chase at Aintree last December, but the second half of his 2022-23 campaign was hallmarked by staying on strongly to hit the frame but ultimately coming up short in his big-race assignments.

Noble Yeats (right)
Noble Yeats in action on the gallops (right) (PA)

Sean Bowen was often seen having to push Noble Yeats along as he looked slightly outpaced during the midpoint of those races but despite cheekpieces being employed for his last three starts, Mullins is in no doubt about his star chaser’s will to win.

“It’s a funny one and I’m sure if someone had their tracker speeds on him then he is not slowing down mid-race, it is probably as fast as he can go,” said Mullins.

“He’s a relentless stayer and no one can fault his attitude in a finish.”

The Shunter realises long-term plan with Cesarewitch strike

The Shunter repelled all challengers to fulfil a long-term plan in the Club Godolphin Cesarewitch at Newmarket.

Trained by Emmet Mullins, the 10-year-old is more famed for his exploits over obstacles, having won at the Cheltenham Festival and been placed at Grade One level in novice chase company.

Back on the level though, The Shunter teamed up with James Doyle in the two-and-a-quarter-mile contest which offered over £103,000 to the winner.

Doyle rode The Shunter (14-1) with restraint in the early exchanges, making stealthy headway before pushing to the front two furlongs out.

The Shunter (centre) was too strong in the Cesarewitch
The Shunter (centre) was too strong in the Cesarewitch (Nigel French/PA)

Top weight Tashkhan had been prominent throughout but he was eager for a battle, pushing The Shunter all the way through the closing stages while Pied Piper, another National Hunt runner moving back to the Flat, made a late grab for glory inside the distance.

However, The Shunter dug deep to prevail by three-quarters of length from Pied Piper, with Tashkhan (25-1) a further head back in third and 100-1 shot Bashful Boy grabbing fourth.

Mullins admitted this race had been the plan for almost a year, with future plans yet to be decided.

He said: “It was a brilliant performance from horse and rider. I’d say James didn’t know what to make of the instructions going out as I said the horse has probably got more ignorance than ability, but he’ll keep pulling it out and keep fighting.

“It’s a bit surreal it’s come off. This race has probably been on the radar since he finished fourth in the November Handicap in Naas last year. We always thought there could be a big pot in him on the Flat and patience has paid off.

“He’s been in great order at home and he’s very tough, which he has shown down through the years.

“All options are open again. He was entered in last year’s Grand National and we scratched him at the 11th hour, but everything is an option.”

Emmet Mullins denies Willie Mullins a Grade One treble at Punchestown

Emmet Mullins dealt his uncle Willie a rare reverse on the opening day of the Punchestown Festival, as Feronily refused to bend in the Dooley Insurance Group Champion Novice Chase.

The champion trainer had saddled four of the first five winners on the card, with a couple of one-twos, a one-two-three and a one-two-three-four thrown in for good measure.

Having won the first two Grade Ones of the afternoon with Facile Vega and Energumene, the master of Closutton saddled four of the six runners in a bid to bag another top-level prize – but was ultimately beaten by his nephew and neighbour.

With Henry de Bromhead’s 9-4 favourite Journey With Me falling in the back straight, it was just a question of which Mullins would win before the home turn, with 7-1 shot Feronily leading the way under a bold ride from Donagh Meyler.

Appreciate It – looking to give Paul Townend a Grade One treble on the card – emerged as the biggest threat between the final two fences, but Feronily was not for catching and stuck to his task gamely on the run-in to score by a length and three-quarters.

James Du Berlais and Classic Getaway finished third and fourth, while Sir Gerhard was pulled up.

While Emmet Mullins is no stranger to big-race success, having most notably saddled Noble Yeats to win last year’s Grand National at Aintree, Feronily was giving him his first Grade One winner.

He said: “We bought him last November as a five-year-old and people said he was too old. We’ve run him in bumpers, hurdles and chases and he’s won a Grade One and now he’s a young horse again. It’s funny how the wheel turns sometimes.

Donagh Meyler and Feronily after winning at Punchestown
Donagh Meyler and Feronily after winning at Punchestown (Niall Carson/PA)

“He’s progressing with each run and is an exciting horse to have. He’s such a good jumper and what I saw in the point-to-point field was the reason we bought him. Jumping is his forte and we weren’t going to waste time.

“I don’t know where we go from here, but he’s definitely a staying chaser.”

Meyler was also enjoying his first Grade One victory.

He said: “I just can’t believe it to be honest with you, it’s kind of been a monkey on the back for a long time now. I’m over the moon.

“He’s had an unusual prep, but you’d be a foolish man second-guessing Emmet Mullins!”

“He’s a fantastic horse, well bought, and it’s great to ride a Grade One winner for Emmet and Paul Byrne (owner) as well.”

Emmet Mullins still struggling to grasp National achievement

Trainer Emmet Mullins is still coming to terms with last year’s Randox Grand National success as he prepares Noble Yeats in his bid for back-to-back victories in the Aintree spectacular.

Mullins is of course from a family steeped in racing history, from his late grandfather Paddy to his training trio of uncles Tom, Tony and, most notably, the legendary Willie Mullins.

Emmet, who took out his training licence in 2015, trains just a stone’s throw from the latter’s huge operation at Closutton and spent a number of years riding for him before retiring from the saddle.

He enjoyed his fair share of success as a jockey, including a Cheltenham Festival victory aboard Sir Des Champs. But he is modest in assessing his riding ability.

Noble Yeats at Emmet Mullins' yard
Noble Yeats at Emmet Mullins’ yard (The Jockey Club)

“I don’t know if the scales would let me be a jockey, that was one part of the battle, but I wasn’t good enough,” he said.

“I suppose at the time there were 90 less horses in Willie’s, Ruby Walsh was number one, Paul Townend was number two and David Casey was probably still riding at the time.

“I was too far down the list and wasn’t doing as well as I’d have liked. I decided to retire and change and do something that I could potentially do better.

“I’d say there’s no doubt every one of the Mullins’ is different and an individual. There’s definitely something I’ve taken from every one of them and you put in your own bit and make it work.”

It did not take Mullins long to make an impact on the training scene, with St Stephens Green and Zero Ten a couple of his early flag-bearers.

Robert Waley-Cohen with the Grand National trophy
Robert Waley-Cohen with the Grand National trophy (Brian Lawless/PA)

The 2020/21 season brought notable success at Cheltenham with The Shunter, but those winners pale into significance following his life-changing success on Merseyside last April.

Noble Yeats was still a novice when he lined up for the Grand National.

But he had shown bits and pieces of form to give him a chance, including a runner-up finish to star novice Ahoy Senor in the Grade Two Towton at Wetherby – a performance that prompted prominent owner Robert Waley-Cohen to approach Mullins about the possibility of buying the then seven-year-old from the handler’s long-time friend Paul Byrne.

“They (Waley-Cohens) had seen him run in Wetherby when he was second to Ahoy Senor. I think by chance they were there as they had a runner that day,” said Mullins.

“Anthony Bromley (bloodstock agent) put it to them that they were looking for a Grand National horse, Noble Yeats ticked a lot of the boxes and it was great that they put that trust and faith in me.”

Noble Yeats’ first run for Waley-Cohen and his amateur rider son Sam came at the following month’s Cheltenham Festival, where he finished ninth in the Ultima Handicap Chase.

Having been beaten 20 lengths in the Cotswolds, he lined up as a 50-1 shot at Aintree, but Mullins insists he never lost faith.

He said: “When the weights came out, he was one of the fancied horses at the prices. Then he had the run in Cheltenham, it was Sam’s first ride on him and it probably didn’t go to plan, but it might have been the making of the horse, running in a big handicap chase at Cheltenham.

“I suppose his price drifted off the back of that, which made him go under the radar a bit more, but we never lost hope or confidence.

“It was a long prep – we had it planned from a long way out and everything went to plan.

“I remember saying to Sam the night before the race ‘if I had the last two weeks back, there’s nothing I would change’.”

Noble Yeats and Sam Waley-Cohen winning the Grand National
Noble Yeats and Sam Waley-Cohen winning the Grand National (David Davies/PA)

Come the big day Noble Yeats certainly stepped up the plate, making his move on the second circuit and finding plenty from the final fence to see off 15-2 favourite Any Second Now by just over two lengths.

Much of the post-race focus was on the winning rider, who having become the first amateur to win the National since Marcus Armytage aboard Mr Frisk in 1990, immediately called time on his career.

Mullins was quite happy to be slightly out of the spotlight, but nevertheless recalls the events of the day with great fondness.

“It’s many months later now and honestly it still hasn’t really sunk in,” he continued.

“I watched the race in the stand to the right of the tunnel when you come out of the parade ring. I was completely on my own and that was Plan A for me!

“I’m fairly sure looking back on it now I was watching the wrong horse for the first half of the race down to the Canal Turn, but by the time he jumped the water and passed in front of me heading out on to the second circuit, I thought he was in position A, a position from where National winners gone by have come from.

“I’m not sure about the horse, but that was the first blow I took! I had to take a breath and gather myself together and from then it was just plain sailing.

“He jumped brilliant and Sam was brilliant on him. He had the confidence to sit and wait until crossing the Melling Road and the rest is history.

“I had to exit stage left and gather myself for a second. I had no idea it was going to be Sam’s last ride, that was a bit more trust they put in, but thank God the horse put it all together.”

All those involved returned to Ireland to further celebrate the success, with Noble Yeats enjoying a homecoming parade in Mullins’ local village of Leighlinbridge.

Noble Yeats with connections outside the Lord Bagenal
Noble Yeats with connections outside the Lord Bagenal (Brian Lawless/PA)

Mullins said: “It was a bit surreal when I came home. I hadn’t really told anyone about the homecoming for the horse, but word seemed to have got round and I couldn’t believe the turn out in Leighlinbridge beside the Lord Bagenal (Inn).

“Noble Yeats is not the prettiest horse in the world. George (Mullins, Emmet’s father) saw him recently coming up the yard and said ‘what’s that broodmare doing riding out here?’. The rider just replied ‘if he wins me another National that’ll do me!’.”

The Grand National brought Mullins new-found fame and unsurprisingly further prospective owners.

But while Willie trains a formidable army of around 200 horses just next door, for now Emmet is happy with his lot.

“I’m very happy with the set up I have. It’s manageable and I have a good team of staff. There’s staff shortages across racing and we have a good team together and are doing a good job I think,” he added.

“There was one barn, now there’s two and we’re up to 29 stables. In my head it’s one step at a time.

“After winning the Grand National everyone would have said we’d bang up stables left, right and centre, but I deliberately didn’t. I put my foot down and said we’d be a little bit more calculated.”

For Mullins there is certainly no basking in the glory of what he has achieved, although his stable star will line up as a major contender following a fourth-placed finish in the Cheltenham Gold Cup under new rider Sean Bowen.

Trainer Emmet Mullins
Trainer Emmet Mullins (Brian Lawless/PA)

“I try my best not to let winning the Grand National change my life, but you’d have to ask my friends and family about that.

“My mentality is you see it, you do it and you move on and look forward. I suppose that’s part of the reason why winning the National hasn’t hit home, you’re looking for next year’s National winner and trying to buy horses for the year after’s National.

“I’m trying to see that five-year project the whole time. I suppose I did overshoot the first five-year plan a little bit!

“He seems to have come out of the Gold Cup well. He’s getting a bit wiser every time and seems to look after himself a bit. He needs a bit more coaxing and Sean was under pressure and hard at it in the Gold Cup. When he got a bit of daylight, he flew home.

“He was last jumping the first fence in the Grand National last year and wasn’t in contention for the first two miles which all worked out in his favour. There is no rule of thumb – it’s about getting the horse happy and confident with some space and getting the gaps.

“It will probably have to be taking the brave man’s route again to get that space but he negotiated it last year and fingers crossed can do it again. I will tell Sean to keep going back at look at Sam’s ride last year!”

Fencing plans for Corbetts Cross next season after Festival exit

Corbetts Cross will sit out the rest of the season and resume over fences next term after his dramatic exit from the Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham.

The chestnut started out in the point-to-point field with Eugene O’Sullivan, graduating to rules racing for the same trainer and winning twice over hurdles before being bought by Paul Byrne and moving to Emmet Mullins’ yard.

His first run for new connections was a victory in the Grade Two Johnstown Novice Hurdle at Naas, after which he was sold to JP McManus and sent in the direction of the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.

The 9-4 favourite for that race under Mark Walsh, the gelding was challenging at the final flight but crashed through the wing to unseat his rider.

Mullins has no explanation for the run-out, but he does know the horse will not be seen again this term.

A novice chasing campaign instead beckons next season, something his trainer is looking forward to due to the horse’s point-to-point background.

He said: “Corbetts has gone home (Martinstown Stud), I suppose it was a funny little period for him.

“He changed yards, he wasn’t with me long when he won in Naas. We weren’t sure, we were undecided about the ground in Cheltenham and the gamble nearly paid off but spectacularly didn’t.

“He came out of it OK, we’ll get him home and let him relax and try to get him going early next season.

“I don’t know (what happened), I haven’t watched the replay back. We’ll just put it down as one of those things and move on to next year.

“He’ll be going over fences next year and coming from the point-to-point field he’s a great prospect.”