Jimmy Beadle: Mullins’ magic casts spell over Leopardstown
There can be not an ounce of doubt that this past week in racing belonged solely to the Irish wizard Willie Mullins.
He claimed two Grade Ones, a Grade Two, a Grade A Handicap and broke a number of records in the process and finally he provided all racing enthusiasts with a moment to savour on Sunday at Leopardstown.
With an embarrassment of riches in his Closutton yard, it is now not much more than a formality that he takes everything before him on the other side of the Irish Sea.
But make no mistake he looks set to make a massive splash come Cheltenham in March.
Mullins got the ball rolling last Thursday when the six-year-old Djakadam booked his ticket to the Cheltenham Gold Cup by bolting up in the ever-competitive Thyestes Chase at Gowran.
It was a record-breaking sixth win in the race for Mullins as Djakadam carried top weight to victory to prove his doubters wrong after he flopped in the Hennessy when last seen at Newbury.
Cut to 14/1 by some bookmaking firms for the festival showpiece, Mullins took the blame for his Hennessy defeat and declared he would not run again before March
He said: “We always thought he could be a Gold Cup horse. It was probably an unfair question to ask him in the Hennessy on his first run of the season, but we felt he was nicely handicapped.
“Because of the dry autumn I was afraid to work him. Because of his weight I took the gamble. I gave him plenty of time to recover and this was the obvious choice.
“That race will take a fair bit out of him so he wouldn’t run between now and Cheltenham.
“Whether he’s strong enough this year I don’t know, but he’s certainly that type of individual.
“The way he travelled and jumped was great, and I don’t think Ruby had a moment’s worry.”
The way in which Mullins and Ruby Walsh stay humble about the abundance of talent they have at their disposal is ever admirable.
But they can no longer keep the wraps on Un de Sceaux after he was simply breathtaking in winning the Frank Ward Solicitors Arkle Novice Chase (Grade One) at Leopardstown on Sunday.
You get the feeling that the crafty pair have always known of his extraordinary ability, but now the whole world knows as he heads to Cheltenham as odds on 10/11 favourite for the Arkle on the first day.
Seen as his biggest test to date, Un de Sceaux was expected to be hard pressed by the well-regarded Gilgamboa and progressive Grade One winner Clarcam, but they never once threatened this beast as he adopted his usually exuberant front-running style and simply winged every fence and drew clear easily up the run in for a most impressive victory.
Pilot Walsh was visibly impressed and his smile post race told a million stories, whereas trainer Mullins was ever the master craftsman, already planning for the festival.
He said: “That’s what I was hoping for today, that he wouldn’t make a mistake in the middle of the race or at the fourth or third last where the pressures starting to come on.
“Certainly if he can repeat that performance over there (at Cheltenham) he’s going to be tough to beat. He’s probably not down to his full racing fitness yet so we have a bit left to prepare for the next six weeks.”
Horse of a lifetime Hurricane Fly gave all racing enthusiasts goosebumps on Sunday as he claimed his fifth Irish Champion Hurdle to raise the roof at Leopardstown in front of his adoring public.
Previously sharing the record with the legendary Istabraq on four Champion Hurdle victories, The Fly now stands out alone and could yet break more records come March.
Unbeaten at Leopardstown with 10 victories and with 22 Grade One victories to his name, Hurricane Fly was sent off 11/10 as it was predicted that last season’s Champion, Jezki would improve on his last run and be very dangerous.
Both horses were neck and neck approaching the last flight but with The Fly just getting on top, Jezki made a slight blunder and pecked on landing, leaving Hurricane Fly to stroll home alone clear of stablemate Artic Fire.
A buoyant parade ring erupted as their equine superstar entered the winner’s enclosure to rapturous applause and cheering.
Mullins and Walsh were clearly overwhelmed and the question now looms over who Walsh will ride in the Champion Hurdle come March?
Beadle’s Bets: Polamco, 3.00, Sandown, Saturday, 8/1