It was great to see Willie Mullins’ stable in treble form at Naas last Sunday and a double at Cork on Saturday after some below par efforts over Christmas.
Willie was quick to nominate the 2m4f Ballymore Novices Hurdle at Cheltenham as Next Destination’s Festival target rather than the opening day’s Supreme Novices Hurdle after his Grade 1 win at the Kildare track. He’s unbeaten over timber in three starts and has earned his shot at Cheltenham now.
It was a workman-like performance at Naas in what was a messy contest and a slowly-run race. He jumped super though and accelerated well to get into a winning position and kept going.
I don’t know if he’ll go to Leopardstown for the Dublin Racing Festival next month ahead of Cheltenham, but he’s an exciting prospect.
My rehab has started and I’m hoping I’ve just seven weeks left before I can return to action. The plan is to try and return the weekend of the 18th or 25th of the February. I’ll then have to see how much riding I can do between then and Cheltenham. The cast came off on the 28th of December and I’m in a boot now that can come on and off.
I’ve been in the gym rebuilding the muscles as there’s been a bit of wastage and you’d be surprised how much strength you can lose when you’ve been inactive. The people in Santry will monitor me and know how far to push me, so I don’t overdo it.
Getting clued in for Clonmel
Pietralunga runs in the mares maiden hurdle at Clonmel on Thursday (12.35pm) ridden by Danny Mullins. It’s her first run in public, but she goes well at home.
Draconien (1.35pm) looked very good when winning his maiden hurdle at this track for Patrick Mullins in December, but he has to take on older horses here. He looks sharp enough at home and should be hard enough to beat here again. He jumped very slick and could be flying under the radar a bit.
Figuring out Faugheen
Willie seems to be pleased with Faugheen despite underperforming at Leopardstown and as yet no-one can offer a reason for his run there. He looks great and seems back to his old self so hopefully it was just a blip.
If you can identify a reason why one of your stable stars underperformed than you can try to fix it or at least ensure it doesn’t happen again. But, as yet nothing has materialised for his lack-lustre run over Christmas.
Pulling the reigns on Yorkhill
It looks as though Yorkhill will drop back in trip from three miles after his run in the Leopardstown Chase. I don’t know where that will be as a couple of the 2m 4f contests in Ireland are on right-handed tracks and we know that won’t suit him. The other option is to drop right back to two miles. Time will tell.