The rain – or lack of it in Ireland at the moment – means it has been a somewhat quiet start to the season so far. All that could change in the next few months though so here’s where I’m hoping we can plunder a few big races this year.
There’s four horses in particular it could pay to follow.
Bellshill was quite lightly raced last season, but showed a huge upward curve after finishing a 10 length third to Might Bite in the RSA Chase the season before. He started late last season and only reappeared – and won – the Bobbyjo Chase at Fairyhouse at the end of February.
He looked to have the Irish Grand National at his mercy on his next start in April but ran across the fence, rallied to finish a close third, and was eventually disqualified and placed fifth. The eight-year-old ended his season on a high though, by winning the Punchestown Gold Cup from Djakadam.
It’s not unreasonable to expect him to improve another 7lbs or so this season and he’ll have some big-race targets.
He looks particularly well coming back in and we’ve always thought a lot of him. He improved with each run last year and a rating in the 160’s means he wouldn’t have to improve an awful lot more to be a genuine Cheltenham Gold Cup contender. He’s exciting and looks one to follow.
We only got him at the end of January when he changed stable and then won the Leinster National at Gowran Park on his first run.
He was favourite for the Irish Grand National on his next start – but fell very early on.
I hope he’s still well enough handicapped to try for some of the big prizes like the Thyestes Chase and even an English or Irish Grand National this season.
Had a great season last year and won the 4m National Hunt Chase for amateurs at Cheltenham under Patrick Mullins.
He’s a 10-year-old now so if you’re asking could he develop into an Aintree Grand National contender? I think he could.
Again, only joined us in January of this year from France and won a heavy ground maiden hurdle at Gowran Park by 10 lengths. Went on to be fifth in the Triumph Hurdle and third to stablemate Saglawy at Fairyhouse before ending last season in style by leading home a Willie Mullins’ 1-2-3 in the Champion 4yo Hurdle.
He’s a big, strong, horse and juveniles improve a lot when they turn five on Jan 01.
He could be a dark horse for the bigger hurdle races from Christmas onwards.
Ruby Walsh: My A-Z of Willie Mullins’ stable stars
Ruby Walsh: Next Destination is my big hope this season.