Willie Mullins will be crowned Irish Champion trainer again this season but if he wants to match last year’s winning total, he would want to be going into the Punchestown Festival next week, having broken the 200-winner mark.
It’s a remarkable achievement given the dry ground we had through the autumn and winter, but ironically it was the summer horses’ performance that contributed a lot to where we are now.
Despite the ground being against us, the yard has stayed healthy all winter and we’ve a lot of horses still to run.
Paul Townend will be crowned Irish champion jockey for the second time after Punchestown and he fully deserves it. He’s ridden really well all season and has taken every opportunity that has come along. He showed last year at Punchestown that he has the mental capacity to put the bad days behind him (when Al Boum Photo ran out at the last fence), and he came out the next day and rode a treble.
This year he’s going to be crowned Irish Champion Jockey and he’s won a Cheltenham Gold Cup too.
It doesn’t get any better than that.
Burrows Saint gets the nod
The Irish Grand National’s not the first time this season I’ve had a tough decision to make.
Apairofbrowneyes missed Aintree, but is in good form and worked well last Tuesday. He started favourite for the race last year but unfortunately fell at the first, but is a fine, big, strong horse who should be able to carry the 10lb penalty for winning the Leinster National.
The step up in trip to 3m 5f should suit Total Recall, who didn’t take to Aintree last year and the Irish National has always been his target this season. Isleofhopeanddreams ran a fantastic race last year when beaten by a head by General Principle.
Acapella Bourgeois, C’est Jersey, and Bellow Mome are all in too and there’s plenty with the credentials to run a big race.
But I’ve won two Irish Nationals and they were both on novices. Novices have a great record in the race too.
Now, if you go through the stats, French horses in general don’t have a great record in the race, so that goes against the last three and Burrows Saint.
But English-bred horses have an even worse one!
That counts against Isleofhopeanddreams, and in the race over the last 15 years or so, horses over 11st have a really back record, so that counts against Total Recall and Pairofbrowneyes.
These are all negative stats for me. It left me with a choice between Cest Jersey and Burrows Saint, two novices, and I’ve gone with the second. He’s improved since Gowran Park when they ran in the same race, he was good in Limerick, and he’s just going in the right direction.
He has very little experience but he does have two runs over fences in France too, so hopefully that’ll stand him in good stead.