The split with Gigginstown House Stud is history now. What’s done is done and it’s business as usual at Willie Mullins’ Closutton yard as we prepare for the new season. All the boxes left vacant are now filled and we’re just looking forward to getting stuck into the new season.
Only time will tell whether the quality is there to replace the quantity that left. But we’ve always had a waiting-list of owners trying to get their horses into the yard and that’s all been dealt with now.
Every stable hopes that they’ve a potential champion waiting in the wings or that their established champions will continue to perform at the top level with each new season.
We feel exactly the same … but could do with a bit of rain to get going.
It’s been a very dry Autumn but the horses are in about as much the same place as they were last year.
There’s nothing we can do about the unseasonable dry spell, but this is Ireland. It’s going to start to pour at some stage so no-one’s panicking just yet.
Mind you, we haven’t made a huge amount of UK entries at the moment. We’ve nothing pencilled in for the old Paddy Power Gold Cup or the Greatwood Hurdle at the Cheltenham Open meeting in mid-November. Avant Tout is our only entry in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury at the end of November and whether we send anything to the Betfair Chase on November 19 to be in with a chance of chasing the million pound bonus we’ll have to see.
As the string get fit and ready, we’ll start to target the bigger contests as they crop up.
I watched the reigning World Hurdle champ make his debut over fences on Tuesday and thought he was brilliant. He jumped superbly, went long, short, travelled really well and won hard-held on the bridle at Chepstow.
The owner, trainer Colin Tizzard and jockey Tom Scudamore were delighted with him. He was flawless. We know he was a high-class hurdler and he took to fences just as well.
While it’s early days to be talking about winning Cheltenham Gold Cups next March, Thistlecrack did everything that was asked of him on his first start over fences and you can’t knock that.
His stable-mate Cue Card gets his season underway on Saturday in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby and he’s a very, very good horse in his own right. He won this contest last year before winning the Betfair Chase at Haydock, King George at Kempton, tipping up in the Gold Cup when travelling well, before returning to form again at Aintree.
Former Gold Cup winner Coneygree’s comeback has been put back a bit while Nigel Twiston-Davies’ RSA Chase winner Blaklion is a second-season novice and has to improve quite a bit to win it. At this stage, Saturday’s contest looks more like Cue Card’s to lose than anything else.