More than happy to be relieved of duties for the weekend

I’m a virtual certainty to make it to Cheltenham now, after Willie Mullins decided yesterday I was to take the weekend off.

Originally, it looked as if Willie’s thinking was that I’d swerve the races over fences, but would ride one over flights at Gowran Park today and then another at Naas tomorrow.

Later in the morning, however, that changed. Willie rang and jokingly said that I had ridden “alright’’ at Cheltenham last year, after having the weekend free, and I was to do exactly the same this time around.

When I thought I was going to be confined to the two hurdle races, I wasn’t disappointed and didn’t complain.

And then when he informed me that I wasn’t to risk riding at all, I have to say I was more than pleased.

I’ve been careful about the rides I’ve taken over the last ten days or so and I’d be most upset, to put it mildly, if something silly happened during the next two days that forced me to miss Cheltenham.

For Willie it really is the calm before the proverbial storm, but I’ll still be surprised should he not figure among the winners at both meetings.

Wood Breizh is first into action for him in the opener at Gowran, a maiden hurdle. He’s an ex-French horse, who has had three runs in Ireland.

His last outing was on this track when only managing a poor seventh. On what I’ve seen so far, Wood Breizh is hard to fancy and the hope is that better ground down the line will see him in a more favourable light.

Abbey Lane, in the beginners chase, is a far more likely winner for Willie. I rode him at Naas last time, when we were no match for Moscow Mannon and Davy Russell.

Moscow Mannon is a useful sort in his own right and better, I think, than what Abbey Lane is facing here.

As well as that he was on his head the whole way at Naas and found two miles too short. This two and a half will be much more to his liking.

Willie ends his day by introducing Tell Us More, successful between the flags, in the point-to-point bumper.

He’s a fine horse and a fair sort. He’d want to be considering it took £290,000 to buy him at Brightwells at Cheltenham in December.

Willie has three more runners at Naas tomorrow, starting with Pink Hat in a Listed event over hurdles.

She was fourth to Chancol at Punchestown and just doesn’t look good enough to win what has the appearances of a smart contest.

It is even more difficult to make any sort of case for Up The Beat in a valuable handicap chase.

He’s had his problems and was given a spin over hurdles at Punchestown last time. The fact Up The Beat finished 16th of 16 behind Jetson rather speaks for itself.

My idea of the winner is Folsom Blue, who won the three and a half mile National Trial at Punchestown in good style and only went up 7lbs.

I know he was then well beaten behind Mozoltov at Naas subsequently, but had no chance with that winner at the weights.

Willie can take the bumper with the once-raced Lockstockandbarrel. I thought he made a decent start at Leopardstown, chasing home a nice horse of Dermot Weld’s called Vigil.

Lockstockandbarrel does things very easily at home and is bound to have improved for that racecourse experience.

I head to Cheltenham tomorrow night and will be accompanied by my old pal, David Casey. Paul Townend and Patrick Mullins will be making their way across on Sunday night as well.

On Monday morning there will be about 25 of Willie’s horse at the track and they will have to be ridden out.

Willie looks set to take in excess of 40, so will need all the staff he can get on course. But don’t forget there will still be about 100 horses at home, so this is going to some operation and some week.

As of now my riding plans remain the same and everyone knows I intend to be with the likes of Hurricane Fly, Vautour, Briar Hill, Annie Power and Faugheen.

But I won’t be shocked if I’ve got it wrong in at least a race or two. For instance Wicklow Brave is working faster than Vautour.

But you’d expect that and I’m hoping two miles, plus, a set of hurdles and an uphill climb to the finish will balance the books in favour of Vautour in the Supreme Novices’.

Likewise, I’m set to stay with Faugheeen in the Neptune Novices’ Hurdle. Again, I can only hope to have got this right, because Rathvinden is working like a steam engine right now.

More in this section


Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox


Wednesday, May 25, 2022

  • 9
  • 13
  • 15
  • 18
  • 21
  • 27
  • 11

Full Lotto draw results »