We fell just short at Sandown in the UK Trainers’ Championship but it wasn’t without controversy.
The decision to take Vroum Vroum Mag out of the Select Hurdle led to a £1,000 fine for Willie Mullins in what the stewards called: ‘A wilful disregard to the interest of racegoers and punters’.
Personally, I don’t agree.
If Willie had a ‘wilful disregard’ he wouldn’t have sent horses to Perth and Sandown to make the end of the UK jumps season one of the most exciting in recent memory. There were races for all the runners he sent in Ireland but he obviously wanted to make a contest of it.
There would have been more ‘wilful disregard’ if he had given Paul Nicholls a free pass to the UK Trainers’ Championship title – while Willie was still in with a chance of winning it. Don’t forget Willie led by £183k at one stage and didn’t just walk away when Paul hauled him back and took the lead.
After Paul Nicholls had saddled Just a Par to be second to The Young Master in the day’s richest contest, he had the title in the bag.
Even if Vroum Vroum Mag ran and won on Saturday it wouldn’t have altered that fact. It was all academic.
It wasn’t a decision Willie made as a sore loser – it was a decision made when looking at the bigger picture. It was a sporting and business decision and I think it was the right decision.
It looked the most sensible thing to do as the title race was over. Susannah and Rich Ricci were trying to help Willie become champion trainer in the UK and once that chance was gone, it made sense to bring Vroum Vroum Mag home.
Willie has targets for horses and Punchestown would have been on Vroum Vroum Mag’s agenda from early in the season. The title race unfolded as the season progressed so all he did was to revert to the original plan.
If she ran at Sandown in that Listed contest for £28k she couldn’t have run at Punchestown this week in the Grade One races where there is more prestige and prize money on offer. Willie had to do what was right for the horse and the owners.
Hopefully that decision will be vindicated at Punchestown this week but we’ve a few others to run first, starting on Tuesday ..
Yorkhill, Punchestown 4.20pm
I rode him in his work work on Saturday morning before I went to Sandown. He seems very well despite trips to Cheltenham and Aintree – where he was very good on both occasions.
He did run keenly both times, but he’s already a Grade One winner over two miles so the drop back to the minimum trip shouldn’t bother him. He’ll follow some pretty illustrious company in Faugheen and Douvan who both won this – but they’d had a longer break after Cheltenham.
Charbal and Petit Mouchoir both like to make the pace so that will help too. It’s a decent contest but he looks the best horse in the race to me.
Bamako Moriviere, Punchestown, 4.55pm
I sit this one out but Willie runs Bamako Moriviere in the handicap hurdle and Paul Towned rides. He’s been bitterly disappointing as he works like a good horse but hasn’t shown this on the track. I can’t figure him out.
Barry Geraghty rides Eddie Harty’s Copy That who’s won his last two races, hasn’t run since December so comes here fresh while The Plan Man ran really well behind Clondaw Warrior at Fairyhouse and would have a good chance if running to that sort of form again for trainer Tony Martin.
Shanpallas reverts to the minimum trip over hurdles but I really think he’ll need further while Jack Kennedy’s 3lb claim could be a big help to Automated who finished second to Ivan Grozny at Aintree and has been running consistently.
Vautour, Punchestown, 5.30pm
I schooled Vautour on Monday morning and all is well. The drop back to two miles shouldn’t be a problem. He tipped up at Aintree but was very good in the Ryanair Chase before that.
Special Tiara should take us along and ran a blinder to just get chinned by Un De Sceaux behind Sprinter Sacre at Cheltenham.
We hold Vautour in very high regard and I don’t think he’ll find two miles on the short side as he’s pretty versatile trip wise having just been chinned in a King George VI Chase also.
There’s inevitably questions as to why he doesn’t have a crack at the Gold Cup on Wednesday but at declaration time there was Don Cossack (now injured) , Cue Card, Djakadam and Don Poli all entered and this looked a decent alternative.
Outlander, Punchestown, 6.40pm
Bryan Cooper rides Outlander in the Grade One Novices Chase who was a little disappointing at Fairyhouse when second to Kylemore Lough. But that probably came quick enough after his fall in the JLT Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham.
Zabana will love the better ground and was unlucky when missing the break at Cheltenham while Harry Fry’s Henryville missed Sandown in search of better ground here and looks an improver.
But Outlander seems to have freshened up well since Cheltenham, looks in good order, will love the trip and should leave his last run behind him.