It has simply been the most unbelievable week for me

It has been the most unbelievable week for Willie Mullins and I. It’s not very often so little goes wrong and so much goes right, so we have to make the most of it when it happens like this. If you had offered me this before the Festival had started, I would have taken your hand off.
It has simply been the most unbelievable week for me

We didn’t get the perfect finish to the week, but I couldn’t fault Djakadam’s effort in the Gold Cup as he jumped well, travelled well, ran as good a race as he did last year - but just found one too good again.

Don Cossack was a very good winner on the day and congratulations to Gordon, Bryan and the O’Learys. It was a brilliant call by Bryan to ride him.

Cue Card was unfortunate, as he was still travelling well when he took that crashing fall.

As I said here previously, the more the track dried during the week the more it was going to suit Don Cossack and Cue Card more than Djakadam and Don Poli – and that’s how it worked out.

Prior to the Gold Cup we were much less fortunate as Dicosimo took a heavy fall in the County Hurdle and, unfortunately, Long Dog broke a leg in the Albert Bartlett, which was very sad.

In the Triumph, Footpad was outpaced but stayed on well, and Willie’s other horses, Apple’s Jade

Probably the only disappointment of the week was in the Champion Chase when Un De Sceaux was beaten.

He may have been a little bit below par, which was unfortunate, but it was a brilliant training performance by Nicky Henderson to get Sprinter Sacre back well enough to win this race for a second time.

And I also thought Nico De Boinville gave him a great ride.

There’ll be other days for Un De Sceaux.

Felix Yonger gave a good example of the fine line between competing and being out with the washing in a championship race.

He made a bad mistake at the second fence – almost landed on top of it – and when you do something like that so early in a race like that, it’s almost impossible to get back into it.

Thankfully there wasn’t a bother on him after the race, but I’m not sure where he’ll go next. There was no such issue for Annie Power, whose win in the Champion Hurdle was the highlight of the week for me.

In the build-up everyone wanted to talk about her fall at the last in the Mares’ Hurdle of 2015, ignoring the wins of Douvan, Faugheen and Vautour at the same meeting.

So, for me, personally, it was a great relief to go out there and almost erase that from people’s memories with that brilliant performance.

I was also delighted Annie Power went out there and showed the racing world what we always knew she was capable of.

In my eyes, Vautour defied all logic when winning the Ryanair Chase.

As far as I’m concerned, he should have been at home in his stable but for him to go out there and win the way he did is just further testament to the mastery of Willie Mullins.

Another very pleasing aspect of the week was the performances of the novices, such as Yorkhill, Shaneshill, Min and Voix Du Reve, amongst others, as it shows we have plenty of ammunition for the future.

You have to pinch yourself when you have weeks like this, but we can also look to the future with further optimism.

I can’t not mention the bumper horses, who fared a lot better than last year, when they were all in the back paddock. This time, we had the second, third and fourth, seventh and eighth, and that also bodes well for the future.

The show moves on to Kempton this afternoon, where we run Townshend in the Silver Plate Handicap – and he is my only mount of the day.

He made his debut for us at Fairyhouse, and ran a blinder to finish fourth behind Squouateur.

The form of that race looks good now, with Mall Dini, who finished third, winning the Pertemps Hurdle, and Sandra Hughes’ Total Recall winning at Naas on his next outing.

Townshend has been fitted with a hood to help him settle and if he gets the extra furlong he should go very close.

Willie has just three runners in Ireland this weekend, and the one with the best chance is Master Of Verse, who runs in the bumper at Downpatrick tomorrow.

He was beaten favourite in two bumpers last season, but has strengthened up since and has been working well recently. I expect him to make it third time lucky for us.

We run Henry Howard in the two-and-a-half-mile maiden hurdle at Gowran this afternoon.

He has been very disappointing in his two runs for us, and will have to improve a hell of a lot if he’s to win this.

Maybe the drier ground will help and he can show improved form, but he’s hardly a betting proposition.

That can also be said of Verawal, who ran in the Fred Winter last year, but has been disappointing this season.

He didn’t handle the heavy ground at Thurles last time, and might improve for today’s conditions.

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Saturday, November 27, 2021

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