Dublin Racing Festival: Mullins mob-handed in pursuit of success
Top handler takes 60 mounts to Leopardstown, double that of great rival Gordon Elliott
Willie Mullins has the hottest favourite over the two days, star two-miler Chacun Pour Soi in Saturday’s Ladbrokes Dublin Chase. File photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho
Willie Mullins is attacking this weekend’s Dublin Racing Festival in overwhelming strength.
The champion trainer has a massive team of 60 runners set to line up at Leopardstown over Saturday and Sunday.
That is double the amount of runners his great rival Gordon Elliott pitches into the weekend action and three times the size of Henry De Bromhead’s team.
Between them Irish racing’s top three trainers have dominated the previous three renewals of Irish jump racing’s showpiece event.
Mullins’s record is 14 wins in the 45 DR races run to date although his dominance could turn prodigious given the quantity and quality of his latest team weekend runners.
He is multirepresented in all 15 races up for grabs. In four of them, including Sunday’s Grade One Chanelle Novice Hurdle, he has half a dozen horses lining up.
The hottest favourite over the two days will be the star two-miler Chacun Pour Soi in Saturday’s Ladbrokes Dublin Chase.
He is one of four Mullins trained likely odds-on favourites in the eight Grade One prizes up for grabs. His Gaillard Du Mesnil also tops the betting for Saturday’s Grade One opener.
A rare exception at the top of the betting is Minella Indo in Sunday’s Paddy Power Gold Cup, the €200,000 festival feature which has a handful of runners divided between the top three trainers.
With a record 10 victories in the race already though, no one knows better than Mullins what it takes to win and the pair of Melon and Kemboy appear to give him a strong hand.
All but one of the five runners lined up in the Savills Chase over Christmas where Minella Indo crashed out at the eighth fence. At the next obstacle Delta Work unseated his rider.
It’s hardly an ideal platform for either horse, especially Minella Indo whose position at the forefront of the Cheltenham Gold Cup betting still owes more to potential than accomplishment. His jumping will be put to the test here in a race where Paul Townend has opted for Melon over Kemboy.
The latter was only denied in the final strides in the Savills by A Plus Tard where Melon was a length-and-a-half back in third.
Melon is likely to be ridden with more restraint this time although that might allow his stable companion an easier time should his new jockey Danny Mullins opt to try and dictate fractions from the front.
The weather outlook suggests the famously quick-drying ground on Leopardstown’s chase course may quicken up by Sunday. That’s likely to suit Kemboy more than most and he could prove value to go one better than last year when runner up to Delta Work.
As well as RTÉ’s coverage, ITV will broadcast six races from Sunday’s action where some of Ireland’s most exciting young talent put their Cheltenham credentials to the test.
Mullins may have five other hopes in the two-mile novice hurdle but for many this will be all about Appreciate It’s attempt to make it three from three over flights.
Armed with a huge reputation, Appreciate It made light of the drop back to two miles here at Christmas where he had the Royal Bond winner Ballyadam back in fourth.
Prior to that the Paddy Corkery trained Master McShee chased home Appreciate It at Cork and he too renews rivalry.
Victory for Corkery, who trains only one or two horses at a time, in such a prestigious contest would strike a rare but massive blow for racing’s “little guy”. The evidence of three Dublin Racing Festivals to date however suggest the big guy’s capacity to mostly duck such blows.
Monkfish and Latest Exhibition are on course to clash for a third time in the Flogas Novice Chase.
The score is 2-0 to the Mullins hotpot who has been described as a natural over fences by his trainer. Monkfish still looks to be rapidly progressive and is hard to oppose.
Sunday’s opening Grade One, the Tatts Spring Juvenile Hurdle, is without the leading Irish four-year-old of the season so far, Zanahyir.
However, Gordon Elliott appears to have a monopoly on the juvenile scene and Quilixios can book his own Triumph Hurdle ticket.