Willie Mullins: No setbacks as festive stars return to Closutton in rude health

Willie Mullins is happy with the condition of his Christmas aces after they all returned to their Closutton stables in rude health.

Mullins, speaking at the launch of the Coral.ie Raceday at his base yesterday, enjoyed numerous Grade One victories over the hectic festive schedule, though Un De Sceaux’s fall at Leopardstown on December 27 was a sizeable blot on the landscape.

“They have all come out of Christmas well – no setbacks,” said the trainer.

“Un De Sceaux is as fresh as paint after his fall and I am keen to run him soon. There are two races towards the end of this month that he is entered in, one in Ireland (Tied Cottage Chase at Punchestown) and one in the UK (Clarence House Chase at Ascot).

“Long Dog has had a busy season so we might just go be easy on him now. He is unlikely to race again until Cheltenham. Another run before Cheltenham would be ideal for Vautour, but I’m not sure where yet.

“Faugheen, Nichols Canyon and Arctic Fire are all likely to run next in the BHP Irish Champion Hurdle.”

Annie Power was not sighted over Christmas as she continues to progress from an injury, but Mullins has not yet ruled out giving her a prep run for the Cheltenham Festival.

He said: “Annie Power is coming on slowly but nicely, and I’m happy with where she is at the moment.

“We won’t know until she steps up to the next stage of training whether she will have a run before Cheltenham, but the aim is Cheltenham.”

Meanwhile the latest Mullins potential superstar could get the chance to further enhance his reputation as Min is the star name among nine entries for the skybet.com Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle at Punchestown on Saturday.

Having arrived from France with a tall reputation, he was already one of the favourites for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle before a startling 14-length victory at Punchestown on his debut for Mullins.

That saw him harden to around 3-1 favourite for the Festival opener and for those punters who like trends, they will be pleased that the last two winners of the Punchestown Grade Two, stablemates Vautour and Douvan, both claimed this race before Cheltenham glory.

Mullins has also entered Thomas Hobson and Thomas Hobson.

Gordon Elliott, quickly establishing himself as Mullins’ chief threat these days, has the promising Tombstone, Westend Star and Ball D’Arc engaged.

Attribution, Tongie and Gars Bar Dine complete the list.

  • Colin Kidd is hopeful Rashaan can bounce back to his best after disappointing in the Grade Two Knight Frank Juvenile Hurdle at Leopardstown over Christmas.

Successful at Roscommon and Listowel in August and September, the son of Manduro rose to prominence when running out an easy winner of a Grade Three at Fairyhouse on his third start over hurdles.

He was sent off the 5-2 joint-favourite to maintain his unbeaten record over timber at Leopardstown, but he could only manage fifth behind Apple’s Jade.

“I wasn’t 100 per cent happy with him after Leopardstown, there isn’t a thing wrong with him, but he just didn’t sparkle on the day,” said Kidd.

“The heavy ground and the top weight were probably factors and he was impeded turning in. He was never going to win the race, but he might have been third.

“There is not a bother on him and he might go for the Grade One (the Spring Juvenile Novices Hurdle) back at Leopardstown in the first week in February. If not, there is a Grade Three at Fairyhouse a couple of weeks after that.

“He’ll have to sparkle in his next run before we could think of Cheltenham.

“On the day I was disappointed, but he is still a very, very good horse. It just didn’t work out for him on the day and we will be aiming to bounce back with him in a month or six weeks.”

  • Alan Fleming already has one eye on next year with the promising Gwencily Berbas. He finished a close-up third behind Arctic Fire and Alpha Des Obeaux in the Hatton’s Grace at Fairyhouse in November but then skipped a possible engagement over Christmas.

Always viewed as a potential chaser, the five-year-old may not be out again until the spring.

“We thought about running in the Christmas Hurdle (at Leopardstown), but when all the rain kept coming, we thought it might be tough for him,” said Fleming.

“The truth is, with him, it’s all about going chasing next year. We’re in no hurry with him whatsoever and he mightn’t run again now until the spring.

“We’re very happy with where we are, but there’s no pressure to run as we’ve already got one eye on next season.”


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