has turned the Grade 1 screw on his opposition with a vengeance in the p
ast month and the champion trainer's hot-streak shows no sign of stopping ahead of a potential landmark success in Sunday week's Hennessy Gold Cup.
Mullins is chasing a 10th victory in the €150,000 centrepiece of Leopardstown’s multiple-Grade 1 card. It is a potential single big-race tally to rival Tom Dreaper’s historic 10 Irish Grand Nationals. Mullins’s two hopes, Boston Bob and On His Own, are currently 7-2 joint-favourites in some ante-post lists.
Dreaper’s old Thyestes Chase record was surpassed by Mullins last week when Djakadam gave him a sixth win in the Gowran feature, a major handicap success that preceded Sunday’s historic action when Hurricane Fly landed a fifth Irish Champion Hurdle and Un De Sceaux routed his Arkle Chase opposition.
That double brought Mullins’s Grade 1 score for the season to nine, a 56 per cent strike-rate in the 16 top-flight races run in Ireland so far this term. Significantly, with Cheltenham just six weeks away, it includes the last five Grade 1 races in a row.
With Don Poli and Valseur Lido among a strong list of Flogas Novice Chase entries, Kalkir and Dicosimo contending for the Gala Retail Juvenile Hurdle, and a strong list of novices to choose from in the Deloitte Hurdle, Sunday week’s lucrative action could see that run of success continue.
It is the Hennessy, however, that Mullins has turned into something of a benefit, beginning with the first of Florida Pearl’s four victories in 1999 and the latest in 2013 with Sir Des Champs for Michael O’Leary’s Gigginstown Stud.
The ill-fated Kempes was a Hennessy hero in 2011 for Irish owner, JP McManus, but it is Englishman Graham Wylie who owns Boston Bob and On His Own, both of which finished behind Road To Riches in last month's Lexus Chase.
With Road To Riches bypassing the race, the Wylie pair currently top the Hennessy betting, although a potential dark-horse is the Ted Walsh trained Foxrock, an impressive winner of the Leopardstown Chase on his last start.
“He didn’t have an over-hard race the last day and we’re looking forward to running in the Hennessy,” said Foxrock’s owner, Barry Connell.
Mullins has given clean bills of health to Hurricane Fly and Un De Sceaux after the weekend exploits and confirmed his legendary hurdler will join his stable companion and hot favourite Faugheen in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham. However he deflected questions about which of the pair Ruby Walsh will ride. “Those are problems for another day,” Mullins said.
One former champion jockey reckons the current champion jockey is almost sure to ride Faugheen. Charlie Swan will have his final runners as a public trainer this week, but after his former partner Istabraq's Irish Champion Hurdle record was broken by Hurricane Fly, Swan is as fascinated as anyone by the decision facing Walsh in March.
“If the ground is any good, I think Ruby will probably ride Faugheen. You’ve got to ride the best chance on the day,” the nine times former champion jockey reckoned.
The McManus team is to be represented by Carlingford Lough and 2014 Irish Grand National winner Shutthefrontdoor in the Hennessy.
An interesting subplot will be the clash between Lord Windermere and On His Own, who fought a memorable finish to last season’s Cheltenham Gold Cup. On His Own was runner up on that occasion but finished ahead of his old rival when again runner-up in the Lexus last month.