No hurry to map out plans for Galway Hurdle second Milkwood

Neil Mulholland is keen to let the dust settle on Milkwood’s excellent effort in last week’s Galway Hurdle before making future plans.

Making his first appearance since winning the Scottish Champion Hurdle at Ayr in April, the seven-year-old produced a fine performance to fill the runner-up spot behind the Willie Mullins-trained Grade One winner Saldier.

“It was a great run and we were over the moon with him,” said Mulholland.

“He was a bit short of room after the last, but that’s the Galway Hurdle and you have to take the good with the bad. We were obviously very, very happy with how he performed on the day.

“He’s very solid. He’d been out in the field for a month or five weeks after his run in Scotland and thankfully the plan worked.

“He picked up €50,000 for finishing second, which is twice as much as he got for winning the Scottish Champion Hurdle.”

Mulholland plans to consult discuss options with Milkwood’s owners in the coming days, with the Somerset-based trainer happy to consider races over hurdles, over fences and perhaps even on the Flat.

“We’ll speak to the owner later in the week and see where we’re going to go from here,” he added.

Neil Mulholland was delighted with Milkwood's performance in the Galway Hurdle
Neil Mulholland was delighted with Milkwood’s performance in the Galway Hurdle (David Davies/PA)

“There are so many options. The owner wanted to go novice chasing last year and I convinced her not to. His run the other day would make you wonder whether he should be going novice chasing as it looks like he could still pick up quite a bit of prize-money over hurdles.

“He was rated 150 this time last week. We’ll see what the English handicapper does now, but he might just be gone out of handicaps now.

“There is nothing jumping out at you in the next month or so. The only thing that is in the back of my head is he has such a good Flat pedigree and the way he travels, you wonder whether you could look at that (running on the Flat).

“We’ll know more later in the week. We’ll see how he is and have a cup of tea with the owner and go from there.”

Milkwood delivers in Scottish Champion Hurdle

A long-term plan came to fruition for Neil Mulholland after Milkwood claimed a clear-cut victory in the Coral Scottish Champion Hurdle.

The Somerset-based trainer revealed he has had the Grade Two contest as the primary objective for his seven-year-old ever since finishing fourth behind the high-class Sceau Royal in the Welsh Champion Hurdle at Ffos Las in October.

Since that fine effort, Milkwood had been third in the Gerry Feilden at Newbury and third again in the fiercely-competitive County Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.

With the form of the latter contest significantly boosted by the subsequent Grade One success of the winner Belfast Banter, Mulholland’s charge was the 3-1 favourite to get back on the winning trail at Ayr – and did so in impressive style.

After moving smoothly into contention under a confident ride from Sam Twiston-Davies, Milkwood took over the lead from Irish raider Ana Bunina after the final flight before pulling three and three-quarter lengths clear.

Mulholland said: “He ran very well in the Welsh Champion Hurdle and Ayr is a very similar track, so we’ve had this in mind since then.

“It was the same type of race, but better ground and we’re delighted it’s worked out on the day.

“We were hopeful going into it, but it’s hard to win any race, never mind a Scottish Champion Hurdle.”

On future plans, he added: “The only race left for him (this season) is the Swinton Hurdle at Haydock.

“He’ll probably go chasing at some stage, but I’ve got to speak to the owner and see what we’re going to do.

“We’ll enjoy today and see how he comes out of it.”