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.”

Clan Des Obeaux still in Sandown contention

Clan Des Obeaux heads 20 horses confirmed for the bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown on Saturday.

The dual King George hero was last seen bouncing back to winning ways in the Betway Bowl at Aintree earlier this month – one of three winners on the card for co-owner Sir Alex Ferguson.

In the immediate aftermath of that Grade One victory, trainer Paul Nicholls raised the possibility of the nine-year-old contesting the traditional end-of-season highlight.

Should he take his chance, Clan Des Obeaux will carry 11st 12lb and concede upwards of 12lb to his rivals, including stablemates Soldier Of Love and Enrilo.

Welsh trainer Christian Williams has a couple of contenders for the three-mile-five-furlong contest in Kitty’s Light and Cap Du Nord, while Neil Mulholland is set to saddle both The Young Master and Doing Fine.

Williams said of his pair: “The plan is to run the two of them.

“I’m not sure if Clan Des Obeaux will run or not. Paul does like to run them, but it’s a question of whether he’ll run him on that ground.

“It probably won’t make much difference to us if he runs or not. If he does we’ll be slightly out of the weights, which isn’t ideal, but Kitty’s Light isn’t over-big, so if he carries 10st it wouldn’t hurt.

“If Clan Des Obeaux does come out, then he’ll nudge up in the weights, but I wouldn’t be too worried either way.”

The Young Master won the race in 2016 and was second when the race was last run two years ago, while Doing Fine also has winning form over the course and distance.

Mulholland said: “The plan is to run both horses, all going well.

“It’s five years since The Young Master won it, but he’s still going strong and is as fit as we can get him.

The Young Master (left) on his way to winning the 2016 Bet365 Gold Cup
The Young Master (left) on his way to winning the 2016 Bet365 Gold Cup (Julian Herbert/PA)

“He hasn’t had a run for a while (since August), but he’s had a couple of away-days and this has always been the plan for him.

“Doing Fine won the London National at Sandown earlier in the season and likes it around there – he’s run well in this race in the past.

“The Young Master is 12 and Doing Fine is 13. It’s a pity they’re getting on in age, but it happens to us all!”

Henry de Bromhead’s Plan Of Attack and the Sean Doyle-trained Crosshue Boy could travel from Ireland.

Other hopefuls include Kim Bailey’s El Presente and the Venetia Williams-trained Cepage.

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.”

Doing Fine refuses to be denied London National honours

Doing Fine – first past the post when the race was declared void 12 months ago – put the record straight this time in the Betfair Exchange Back And Lay London National Handicap Chase at Sandown.

Neil Mulholland’s 12-year-old led for most of the gruelling three-mile-five-furlong journey and rallied in admirable fashion at the business end to come out on top.

Crosspark looked like he might take his measure, but Doing Fine (15-2) proved a willing partner for conditional jockey Millie Wonnacott and got the verdict by three-quarters of a length. Regal Flow was 11 lengths away in third place.

Mulholland said: “It is great result. It is good for the yard, good for the horse, good for everybody. I think it is good for racing.

“For a handicap chase everyone really got behind him and knew it was a deserved success. In racing you have to move on.

“It was one of those things really and we have had to deal with it again at Fontwell the other day so we are getting used to it.

“I think it is all about today really. What happened last year was unfortunate, but thankfully today made up for it.

“This horse is a good, solid fun horse for the Neil Mulholland Racing Club. They don’t pay big fees, but they get good days out and the prize-money is between all of them and you are giving people back something at a lower level and there is no big expectations because they haven’t forked out big money.

“I think we will give him a little break now and we can bring him back for things like the bet365 Gold Cup and things like that.”

Wonnacott was delighted the horse was able to make amends for last year when the race was voided due to a fatal injury to Houblon Des Obeaux, with a number of riders failing to stop after a yellow flag was waved.

“He always tries his best and he jumps for fun and that’s the best I’ve seen him travel,” she told ITV Racing.

“He was very unlucky last year when it was taken away from him. Thank god he’s done it again.”

Millie Wonnacott riding Doing Fine (left) clear the last
Millie Wonnacott riding Doing Fine (left) clear the last (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

The 7lb claimer only recently returned from a bad injury she sustained in August.

“Three months ago I got some pretty nasty fractures in my vertebrae and I wouldn’t be riding here if it wasn’t for Oaksey House,” she said.

“They were fantastic in getting me back. I wanted to get back before this weekend ideally and they made it happen.”

Wonnacott had earlier been involved in an incident during the Henry VIII Novices’ Chase, when she and Angus Cheleda together with their jockey coach were on the track as the horses were turning into the home straight on the final circuit.

The three, together with the clerk of the course, were interviewed and shown recordings of the incident, with the stewards reminding them of their responsibility to remain vigilant when walking the course, so as to ensure their and other participants safety at all times.

Fifty Ball set up a potential shot at Grade One glory in completing a double for Gary Moore in the Read Paul Nicholls On betting.betfair Novices’ Handicap Hurdle.

The five-year-old followed up his inaugural British victory at Ascot last month when making his first start over two miles a triumphant one under Niall Houlihan.

Taking control of matters mid-race, the 5-2 shot continued to pour on the pressure from the front before crossing the line 13 lengths clear of runner up Naizagai.

Fifty Ball could return to Sandown for the Tolworth Hurdle
Fifty Ball could return to Sandown for the Tolworth Hurdle (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Moore said: “The form of his Ascot win had been boosted earlier in the day as the horse he beat (Straw Fan Jack) won fairly comfortably at Aintree.

“Today the drop back in trip was a bit of a concern, but I felt that the strength of the race wasn’t that strong and the stiff track track on heavy ground would play to his strengths.

“If the Tolworth came up heavy we could maybe come back for that. The next race was going to be a 0-135 at Ascot over two-miles-five on the 19th, but that might come too quick.

“If the handicapper did the sensible thing the Lanzarote would be a good race.”

Golden Boy Grey took both Moore and those in the stands by surprise after flooring 2-11 favourite Grand Mogul by nine lengths to make a winning debut in the My Oddsboost On Betfair “National Hunt” Novices’ Hurdle.

Moore said of his 11-2 winner: “It was a little bit of a surprise. Me and Jamie (Moore) went through the race last night and we thought there would be a strong gallop that would test his fitness as it was his first run, but they have hacked.

“He showed a rare turn of foot in bad ground and it played into his hands. You wouldn’t want to go too mad too soon.

“His owner (Bob Arnold) is a lovely man and that is the first winner I’ve trained for him in his colours.”

Paddy Brennan in winning action aboard Elham Valley
Paddy Brennan in winning action aboard Elham Valley (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Fergal O’Brien praised the work fellow trainer John Gallagher did with Elham Valley (11-2) after he ran out a length-and-three-quarter winner of the Betfair Free Bet On The 1.50 Introductory Juvenile Hurdle.

O’Brien said: “The owners were at Goodwood and they saw him run and they tried to buy him on the day as he was in a seller. That didn’t come off on the day, but we spoke to Andrew Balding the day after and managed to get him.

“A lot of credit goes to John and Rebecca Gallagher as they did a lovely job with him when they got him back home.

“His jumping was very slick and every time Paddy (Brennan) wanted him to go through gap he was there. He was so good over his hurdles and that is all credit to the boys and girls that have schooled him at home.”

Mulholland hopes Any News can deliver

Neil Mulholland is hoping Any News can hit the headlines in the Ballymore Winter Novices’ Hurdle at Sandown.

The five-year-old has done everything asked of him in his short career so far, winning both his starts under rules.

Successful in a bumper at Exeter in October, Any News then won easily by 10 lengths on his hurdling bow at Bangor last month.

Both races were around two miles, and Mulholland expects Friday’s step up to two and a half miles to suit.

“He’s in good form. He’s a nice horse obviously. He’s won his two races for us,” said the Wiltshire trainer.

“There are five runners, and I suppose they are all at the same level as we are. We will find out a little bit more about him – but he’s a nice horse going forward, and we’re very happy with him.

“It looked like he was going to win a point-to-point one day (before falling), so I’d like to think he should be fine – I wouldn’t be worried about stepping him up in trip.”

Evan Williams echoed similar sentiments on Star Gate, who made a successful debut over hurdles at Chepstow five weeks ago – having won a point-to-point in February.

“He’s in the deep end a bit,” said the Llancarfan trainer.

“We’ve gone from a little maiden hurdle to a Grade Two – but it cut up, so we thought we’d give it a try.

“Obviously it’s very competitive. Everyone in the race will probably be in the same boat. We’ll see how we get on and go on from there.

“He’s a lovely young horse and very much one for the future. He’s the youngest one in the field, but at the end of the day it’s a nice race. It looks the right race at the right time.”

Trainer Paul Nicholls saddles Sending Love
Trainer Paul Nicholls saddles Sending Love (John Walton/PA)

Sending Love has had a bit more experience, and Paul Nicholls believes a wind operation has benefited the five-year-old.

“A wind op over the summer has helped transform Sending Love, who bounced back to form with a highly impressive success at Ffos Las a month ago,” the Ditcheat handler told his Betfair blog.

“I tend to blame myself for being too hard on him before his second start for us last March at Wincanton – where he ran a shocker, way below expectations.

“I’ve been easier on him this time round, training him differently, and half expected him to need the outing at Ffos Las.

“The more it rains at Sandown the better for Sending Love who is in really good shape at home. He is a nice horse with a big chance.”

Completing the quintet are Chris Gordon’s Press Your Luck, winner of both his starts over hurdles, and the Alan King-trained Vallares, victorious at Wetherby in October but beaten at odds-on at Ludlow last month.

Racing Insights, 28th October 2020

Tuesday's race didn't go entirely as I thought it would, but I did still manage to land on the winner, who actually won quite cosily dropping in class. I'd dutched him with another runner, so made a couple of points profit, which was nice but not retirement money, so I'll have to go again for Wednesday's racing, where the free feature is the amazing Trainer Stats report, which just happens to be one my favourite Geegeez features, whilst our free racecards are for...

  • 1.15 Nottingham
  • 1.50 Nottingham
  • 3.50 Nottingham
  • 4.25 Dundalk
  • 5.30 Dundalk
  • 8.15 Kempton

And it's the report that I'll be using for today's piece, based on the Trainer, 5 year Course handicap results as follows...

...which shows that Neil Mulholland's Fakenham handicappers have a 1 in 3 record over the last five years, they make the frame in more than half of their races and are profitable to follow. The A/E is at the low end of my requirements but the IV is excellent at 2.19.

As you can see, Neil has two out on Wednesday, so let's look at each in turn, starting with Master Burbidge in the 1.32 race, a 5-runner, Class 5, Selling Handicap Chase for 4yo+ over 2m6f on Good ground worth £4265 which looks a little (well, a lot) like this...

... where the likely favourite Princeton Royale possesses the only real discernible piece of real form, courtesy of a win over a similar trip at Class 3 two starts ago. Neil Mulholland's C5 icon stands out here (as does the jockey of Wicked Willy, but more on him later!).

The only snippet of interest is the fact that Abbey Lane steps up in class for a yard debut and whilst that might not appear of obvious interest, he's 15 yrs old and now debuts for his sixth trainer, having previously been trained by the likes of Elliott & Mullins! He also hasn't been on a racecourse for over 41 months, so I'm really not sure why he's here.

Instant Expert doesn't actually tells us a great deal abut any of the runners to be honest...

...other than the likely fav has done really well on good ground, but the place tab is more informative...

...with the Mulholland runner having a decent place strike rate at Class 5 and also over this type of trip, but looking like he'll struggle to match either of the two listed above him. Pace-wise, it generally pays to be up with, if not actually setting the pace in these kind of events and sadly once again there are a couple of runners who look better suited than our boy...

As for his recent form and overall profile, it's not great, really, even though he's a useful/versatile sort with wins on the A/W (Polytrack, but handled Fibresand & Tapeta well too) over hurdles and fences. Unfortunately, he comes here on a run of 17 consecutive defeats over a near-31 month dry spell and has finished 4th of 5 and 8th of 9 in his last two for a combined deficit of 78 lengths and I'd not be surprised if he only beats the old boy this time around.

In his defence, he likes good ground (3 from 12 at NH), has a 4 from 12 record at Class 4 and runs best within a month of his last outing whilst wearing cheekpieces. He does, however, do most of his best work in the spring and he's not one to put money on here.

So let's leave Master Burbidge alone and switch attention to Neil Mulholland's other Fakenham 'capper, Dream Machine, who goes in the 3.32 race, a 10-runner, Class 4 Handicap Hurdle for 3yo+ over 2m½f also on Good ground and worth £5588 to the winner...

Dream Machine looks well placed in the Geegeez ratings and will be ridden by Sam Twiston-Davies (who'll be on Wicked Willy in the 1.32 contest above) and Sam also has the C5 icon, suggesting that he's one of the jockeys you'd want on board.

Sam doesn't actually venture to Fakenham too often, having raced in just 35 hurdles contests since the start of 2015, but it's not a lack of success that keeps him away, as he has a place strike rate of 55% (11 placers) including seven winners (35%).

And whilst we're talking numbers, I might as well add that Neil Mulholland's Fakenham hurdlers are 17 from 47 (36.2%) since 2014, including 14/32 (43.75%) in handicaps, 9/28 (32.1%) at Class 4 and 7 from 17 (41.2%) in Class 4 handicaps.

All well and good, of course, but what of Dream Machine's chances/suitability here? Well, Instant Expert is inconclusive again from a win perspective...

...whilst the place angle suggests that several others might be better suited...

...although Dream Machine is all amber and green with a steady 40%-60% record across all criteria, a level of consistency that prove beneficial here. From a pace perspective, he's an out and out hold up horse and that tactic isn't such a bad thing in this type of contest with mid-division runners and hold up horses faring best...

For the record, he's a fair if unspectacular hurdler who was useful on the Flat over 10f. His sole hurdles success from eight attempts came over this trip, at this grade and on good ground and although he seemed to struggle last time out, he ran really well two starts ago at Southwell.

He was third that day, less than five lengths off the pace with the winner then going out to win a gain twelve days later despite being upped two classes, so a reproduction of that run, which came off a mark 3lbs higher than this contest, would put him in the mix, but there's no guarantee that'll happen, of course.


Neil Mulholland has two chances of improving an already excellent record in handicaps here at Fakenham, but on this occasion I don't see him landing a win.

Both Master Burbidge and Dream Machine have ability, but other rivals seem more likely/reliable. Of the two, Dream Machine has the better chance but would need some luck to land the win, but has every chance of a place.

I'm leaving Master Burbidge alone, but I will back Dream Machine at 11/1 E/W with Bet365, whilst Skybet are offering four places if that's of any interest.

Mulholland eyeing twin assault on Kerry National

Neil Mulholland is set to be double-handed in next week’s Guinness Kerry National with Shantou Village and Soupy Soups due to line up in the Listowel feature.

Shantou Village is no stranger to the three-mile contest, having finished fifth in 2018 before unseating his rider at the final obstacle when still in with every chance last year.

The 10-year-old has had two spins over hurdles since the resumption of British jumps racing in July and he will be joined by stablemate Soupy Soups, who recently struck gold at Perth, on the trip to Ireland.

Mulholland said: “The plan is to run both Soupy Soups, who won the Perth Gold Cup for us at the end of last month, and Shantou Village, who picked up for prize money when fifth in the race in 2018 and was unlucky last year with what happened at the last fence.

“It is a great race with great prize money and hopefully everything works out. The drier it stays the better it will be for both our horses.”

Peter Fahey is also hoping for dry weather for his contender Peregrine Run, who lifted a Grade Three chase back in July and was last seen finishing fifth in a Flat handicap at Leopardstown in August.

Fahey said: “It is looking like a favourable weather forecast and he’ll run if the ground is good. It just went too soft for him at Galway (pulled up in the Galway Plate).

“He’s fresh and well, really he’s in brilliant form and if the rain stays away, he’ll take his chance.”

The Kerry National is the highlight of the week-long Harvest Festival at Listowel and the contest has 35 contenders at this stage, headed by top weight The Storyteller for Gordon Elliott.

He also has Ravenhill, Three Musketeers and Timiyan entered, while Henry De Bromhead also has four in Spyglass Hill, Plan Of Attack, Kupatana and Minella Times.

Willie Mullins has whittled his team down to Cabaret Queen, Robin Des Foret and Blazer with Snow Falcon, successful in the 2018 renewal, and Cap York standing their ground for Noel Meade.