Things We Learned » Danny joy

Danny joy

The appointment of Danny Mullins as Barry Connell’s retained rider represents a fantastic opportunity for the young rider.

Connell is one of the top owners of National Hunt racehorses in Ireland. He hasn’t finished outside of the top five in the owners’ table in terms of numbers of winners for four years, and last year he finished fourth both in terms of number of winners and in terms of prize money won, behind JP McManus, Gigginstown House and Susannah Ricci. This season to date, he is joint fourth in terms of number of winners.

Danny Mullins has been talked about as a future star for a while now. Bred for nothing but racing both on his maternal and paternal side, his progress from champion pony racing rider to talented professional has been marked, his skills honed via his apprenticeship with Jim Bolger and a short stint with Alan King. His talents were brought sharply into focus most recently when he rode his new boss’ Anonis (trained by his mother) to victory in the bumper at Cheltenham’s Open meeting last November, and when he rode three winners at Leopardstown’s Christmas Festival, two of them owned by his new boss, all three trained by his mum.

The young rider has an awful lot to which to look forward now. Horses like Glam Gerry, Minsk, Mount Benbulben, Black Benny, Mumbo Jumbo, Inis Meain and, of course, the newly-acquired bumper horse Golantilla (although only in Britain for now, where bumpers are open to professionals) will be his to ride by rights. There should be some very exciting times ahead.

Ante post Cheltenham

It seems to be more difficult than ever this year to spot value in the Cheltenham ante post markets. Perhaps it is because it seems that running plans for an unusually high proportion of big players are not set in stone yet, or perhaps it is simply because a lot of the value is being squeezed out of the markets.

If a horse wins a race these days, his price for his potential Cheltenham target is being slashed (ref. Pont Alexandre, Hurricane Fly, At Fishers Cross, Sprinter Sacre, Reve De Sivola last weekend), even if, as has been the case in some instances, we have really learned nothing new about the horse in question. The converse is not always the case, however. If a horse gets beaten (ref. The New One, Binocular, Oscar Whisky, Arvika Ligeonniere last weekend), Cheltenham odds are generally being adjusted conservatively.

The net result is a cramped-looking shape to most of the Cheltenham Festival markets. You know that there is going to be fierce competition for the betting dollar in the lead up to, and during, the Cheltenham Festival, so it may be best – if you can resist the temptation – to wait until closer to the time before filling up the rest of the space in your Cheltenham betting portfolio.

Doyle centre stage

Liz Doyle is perhaps best known across the water as the person who runs the kindergarten that was attended by 2010 Cheltenham Bumper runner-up and 2011 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner Al Ferof, and by 2011 Cheltenham Bumper winner Cheltenian, but she may have a live one herself for the 2013 Cheltenham Festival in Le Vent D’Antan.

The son of Martaline looked good in winning the bumper at Leopardstown on Saturday on his racecourse debut. It is difficult to gauge the strength of Saturday’s opposition, but the winner was backed like a good horse before the race, and he travelled like the best horse during it from a long way out, before picking up impressively to come clear under Mikey Fogarty inside the final furlong.

The general feeling after the race was that there would be some enticing offers for Le Vent D’Antan, and there may well have been, but the owners, the Goliath Syndicate, are apparently not for selling.

Doyle has her horses in fine form these days. As well as Le Vent D’Antan, Reality Dose was a wide-margin winner of a handicap chase at Naas two weeks ago, while Rich Revival has now won his two chases since he returned to the racetrack in December after a year and a half off.

The Cheltenham Bumper is shaping up to be a particularly high-quality renewal this season but, all things being equal, it looks like Le Vent D’Antan will be among the main contenders, and that Liz Doyle will be among the main trainers.

Weight matters

AP McCoy doesn’t do overweight, so it was no surprise that, when his name was chalked up beside Mr Watson for the two-mile handicap hurdle at Cheltenham on Saturday, 10st 3lb his allotted weight, McCoy, plus his silks plus his saddle, weighed in at 10st 3lb dead, not an ounce more.

10st 3lb is just about as low as the champ goes – Qaspal carried 10st 3lb when he won the Imperial Cup in 2010 – and the punters took the hint, sending Mr Watson off the 11/4 favourite for what looked like a really competitive heat. It wasn’t a surprise either that he won.

Nor was it a surprise that, just over an hour earlier, when At Fishers Cross needed every sinew of McCoy’s assistance to get past The New One in the dying strides of the Neptune Investments Management Hurdle, Rebecca Curtis’ horse did not lack for strength from the saddle. We don’t know how much the champ had to sweat, or how little he could eat in the lead up to Saturday, but whatever the answers to those questions are, he didn’t compromise his strength one iota.

Ground theory

I’m not sure about this notion that appears to be gaining traction that better ground at the Cheltenham Festival will increase Oscar Whisky’s chance of exaction his revenge on his Cleeve Hurdle conqueror Reve De Sivola.

Oscar Whisky handles soft ground well. Actually, he may be at his best on it. According to RPRs, the two best performances of his career were in the Ascot Hurdle and the Relkeel Hurdle this year, both races run on heavy ground. Okay, so both of those races were run over two and a half miles or thereabouts, but he seemed to stay three miles well on Saturday. It probably wasn’t lack of stamina that beat him.

By the same token, Reve De Sivola handles good ground well. His best ever run before this season was when he finished second to Peddlers Cross in the Neptune Hurdle in 2010, in a race that was run on good ground. Nick Williams’ horse does handle soft ground well, but it is incorrect to assume that he can’t be as effective on good ground.

Oscar Whisky’s record on soft or heavy ground reads 111112. He may well beat Reve De Sivola in the World Hurdle but, if he does, it probably won’t be because of the likely better ground.

© The Irish Field, 2nd February 2013