Patrick Mullins, assistant trainer to his father Willie is expecting plenty of the horses from Closutton Stables to improve significantly at the Dublin Racing Festival.
Ahead of the third running of the Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown, Patrick Mullins ran the rule over some of the big runners in the Grade One races at the Foxrock venue.
The ground at Leopardstown's Dublin Racing Festival was unseasonably quick last year and the ground dried out very significantly at Christmas leading to a glut of ground related non-runners on the latter days of the meeting.
The Champion Amateur has no qualms about the racing surface though: "I would have full confidence Lorcan Wyer (clerk of the course) and the team in Leopardstown will have it spot on. I think it was an anomaly last year because we had such an unusual winter. I don't think there is any concern."
Kemboy was beaten over Christmas having accounted for his Gold Cup-winning stablemate Al Boum Photo at Punchestown in the spring. Patrick seemed unruffled by the festive defeat and expects better at the Dublin Racing Festival:
“Kemboy ran well in Leopardstown over Christmas. He needed the run – I expect him to improve considerably from that run,”
📅 May 1 @punchestownrace
🏆 After partnering his 2,756th winner, Ruby Walsh retired from the saddle & what a way to bow out!
🇮🇪 Kemboy defeated Gold Cup hero & stable companion Al Boum Photo in a thrilling renewal of the Punchestown Gold Cup#RacingTVHighlightsOfTheYear pic.twitter.com/5nnQ2CsHks
— Racing TV (@RacingTV) December 30, 2019
"I thought it was a funny race, himself and Monalee got a freebie (in front) and four or five lengths with it. but again our lad blew up and needed the run. I expect him to improve significantly for that.
"Kemboy has come out of it perfectly and we'll aim to go back there with him."
Kemboy will be joined in the Paddy Power Irish Gold Cup by stablemate and last year's winner Bellshill
Chacun Pour Soi
Chacun Pour soi is another who tasted festive defeat at Leopardstown, but for Mullins, the dream has not been completely dashed:
"I was disappointed he got beaten but I wouldn't say his bubble is burst just yet."
The Champion Chase is shaping up to be one of the best in recent years, with the emergence of Defi du Seuil and Altior confirming the Queen Mother as his sole Festival target.
Chacun Pour Soi 🥇
One of the most exciting novice chasers from last year is due to take on some of the biggest names in the two mile division later in the year. pic.twitter.com/jgoSJnSKxs
— Horse Racing Ireland (@HRIRacing) October 30, 2019
Patrick knows a big showing is needed by Chacun Pour Soi to give him a chance of landing the stable's first Champion Chase.
"He'd have to go and win at Leopardstown if he's going to live up to his reputation but I think we'll see a huge improvement from Christmas.
“He still has to prove himself, but he does have huge potential,”
“I thought he jumped fantastic in Leopardstown at Christmas for a horse that only had one chase run in France and two runs as a novice, he jumped spectacularly.
“I wonder if we were a bit forward on him and I think he just blew up. Our horses have needed their first run so I wouldn’t be too worried.”
Min and a few other stablemates could join Chacun Pour Soi in the Ladbrokes Dublin Chase on Saturday.
Mullins said of Min: “I think he got the run of the race in the John Durkan (at Punchestown). Everything seemed to want to drop out, but I expect him to improve for that. He won despite not being at his best. He made a few mistakes, which was unusual.
“I think we will run three or four in this race. Cilaos Emery and Duc Des Genievres are in there as well. It’s going to be a very competitive race.”
Patrick described Cilaos Emery, who is as yet unbeaten over fences as "a fragile horse" but admitted, "we don't know how good he is."
Cilaos Emery was a tearaway in his early career but Mullins says he has mellowed: "He used to be very keen, which was his downfall. He's settling much better now."
Faugheen gave Mullins a "magic" moment when winning the Grade One Matchbook Betting Exchange Novice Chase at Limerick over Christmas.
Faugheen the machine! 🔥
The old warrior still has plenty left in him as Faugheen strides up the line to win the G1 Matchbook Betting Exchange Novice Chase for Patrick and Willie Mullins pic.twitter.com/t8ElKP2OVV
— Limerick Races (@LimerickRaces) December 26, 2019
“There is a certain responsibility riding a horse like that. I didn’t think we’d beat Samcro, but he jumped great and winged the second-last and the last. It was a very special occasion."
The former Champion Hurdler is expected to line up in the Flogas Novice Chase over two miles and five furlongs on Sunday. While Patrick was delighted with what happened at Limerick, he doesn't expect to retain the ride.
“This is the obvious place to go for him. I imagine Paul (Townend) would like to get his leg back over, but we’ll see. But if he decides he wants to ride one of the others I’ll put my hand up. Paul is number one and he gets first shout.”
Whether he's in the saddle or not, Faugheeen will make Mullins' weekend. "I'd love to see Faugheen win the Flogas. To me, that would be the biggest result of the weekend for us."
Two years ago, ahead of the Dublin Racing Festival, Patrick Mullins was mocked for saying "no horse should be odds-on against Sharjah." The odds-on shot that day was Samcro, who won at Leopardstown and followed up at Cheltenham.
Since that Cheltenham win, when Samcro was hailed as the second coming, he has only won a single beginners' chase from seven starts. In the same time, Sharjah has won a Galway Hurdle and three Grade Ones. Patrick was right, just mistimed.
Mullins' timing was spot-on when landing Grade One honours on Sharjah at Christmas, and he retains every affection for the horse.
“I love riding him. He’s such an easy horse to ride. You could ride him with your baby toe and your baby finger. He does everything very easily,” he said.
Sharjah makes it back-to-back wins at the Leopardstown Xmas Festival in the G1 Matheson Hurdle 🎄
Klassical Dream was well beat after a horror jump at halfway
— Sun Racing (@SunRacing) December 29, 2019
“He enjoys dry ground. Last year when he won at Leopardstown it was a slow-run race and he was able to come through and win.
“This year it was a fast-run race and he was able to come through and win, so he’s quite adaptable in that way. Hopefully, I’ll get to ride him again.”
“Obviously Klassical Dream the last day made a bad mistake and that put paid to his chances, but if he learns from that he’s still a high-class horse so it should be a cracking race,” he said.
Mullins said underfoot conditions are crucial to seeing Klassical Dream at his best: “I think he probably wants soft ground to be a two-mile champion hurdler.”
The supporting card on Lawlors' Hotel day at Naas gave the world a glimpse of what could be when Cash Back took the novice chase in impressive fashion.
A winner for Willie Mullins at Naas, as the previously Grade 2 placed Cash Back makes easy work of the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Novice Chase pic.twitter.com/5Ws0gfwS76
— Horse Racing Ireland (@HRIRacing) January 5, 2020
Cash Back is one of six Mullins entries in the ERSG Arkle Novice Chase at the Dublin Racing Festival.
"Cash Back is another who has improved for going fencing and I think two miles is his job,” said Mullins.
He only won a maiden hurdle over the smaller obstacles, but over fences, Patrick drew comparisons with a stable star:
"He's a bit like Un de Sceaux, at home, he either has to lead or be last. He likes to get on with things and jumps very well.
"His performance in Naas was good. You could argue that one or two of the others maybe underperformed but what I loved about that was Danny couldn't pull him up after the line.
"Anytime that happens they've obviously got an awful lot left in the tank."