Find out which horse Willie Mullins thinks is in the same league as Ryanair Chase favourite Footpad, in our stable tour with the Irish champion jumps trainer.
Mullins opened his doors this week to launch the new jumps season, which begins in earnest at Down Royal this weekend, as the Northern Irish track hosts the first Grade 1, the JNwine.com Champion Chase.
He had some surprising things to say about 2018 Cheltenham Festival stars Footpad and Laurina, and seemed to think he'd already found his fourth successive Arkle Chase winner. Look out too for his One To Watch.
Min ran a fantastic race to be second to Politologue in the Melling Chase at Aintree. I was just looking at it the other day, and thinking of maybe going back for that year again this year, but that's a long way down the road. Two, two and a half miles is his trip - I don't think we'll be going any longer with him.
Footpad can do any trip from two miles to three miles. When we started off schooling him this time last year, we were thinking that's what he was going to be - a staying chaser.
We think he'll stay, just he's so good at jumping he's able to beat the two milers. But, between me and his owners Isaac Souede and Simon Munir, we haven't got down to deciding. Maybe we'll let the horse decide.
We'll start him off over shorter, and then lengthen him out and see what happens. They have a very good horse in England, a two miler with Nicky Henderson, so maybe they mightn't want to take him on and this fellow will be allowed to go out in trip. He's certainly class whatever trip he goes.
Great Field is going to stick to what he did last year, two miles, and we'll try to keep himself and Un De Sceaux apart. Un De Sceaux has come back very strong, he's huge. He is still the same Un De Sceaux and I would imagine he will be following the same path as last year.
We skipped the Tingle Creek and went to Cork for the Hilly Way, and I think he will do the same this season too. He will be entered in the two races and we will decide which way he will go nearer the time.
The performance Bellshill put in at the end of last season to win the Punchestown Gold Cup was huge. It shows the strength of the horse and he's going to be in all those top three mile chases this year.
Yorkhill I think I have to start over fences with. He had a funny year last year, nothing went right for him. The potential he showed this time last year, we didn't get out of him at all.
I'm going to stick to three miles over fences. He jumps a bit left, and we are going to have to control that, but maybe if the horse is in better form we can manage it. We had certainly been able to up to last year.
Al Boum Photo is a horse that has improved all year. I think I have to try to aim him at a Gold Cup, whether it's at Leopardstown at Christmas or at Cheltenham, but that's the route. He's a staying chaser, and has lots of ability.
Kemboy will start off in handicaps. If I can get a run into him before the Ladbroke at Newbury I will. If he runs well there he could make the jump up in class, he's certainly a horse that has improved and is still improving. He could make it.
Total Recall is going to be a bit harder to place because obviously he's probably at the top of his handicap mark. He ran very well in the Gold Cup before he came down - we thought he was going to have a first-three finish maybe.
That puts him in line for a lot of Grade 2 and Grade 3 races, but it's going to be tough to break through to Grade 1. Possibly something like the Troytown, or the Thyestes Chase, are realistic targets.
Pleasant Company will be geared towards going back for the Aintree Grand National. I thought I had him nailed on for the Irish national last year, but anyhow. I think his owner Malcom Denmark prefers the Aintree National and on the evidence of last year's close second, it's the right place to go again.
Rathvinden was very good when winning the four miler at Cheltenham. He would look to me to be a National horse as well, whether Irish or English, I don't know, but certainly those handicap chases on the way to the Grand National are the way to go. We also have Pairofbrowneyes that could be heading to the Grand National.
Laurina might kick off in that race at Ascot that Annie Power won, and she will then go down the Champion Hurdle route. If we find out she's not good enough not, she'll just come back to the Mares Hurdle, but she is special.
She's unbeaten with us, and her owner is very keen to give her an opportunity to go down the Champion Hurdle route. To me, looking at her, she could go novice chasing - she is a fine big mare - but it's easier to come back from that, than go up a grade mid-stream.
Benie Des Dieux could do anything. She's a fantastic jumper and we would love to go chasing with her. I do think I want to keep her for the mares' hurdles, but I think she might mix it a little bit. We kept her sound all last year, and I think she's easier to keep sound over hurdles.
The Mares Hurdle at Cheltenham would, in my mind, be her aim at the moment. Limini I think we could see back over hurdles, and she should stick to mares company.
Relegate at home never impresses, so I would imagine she's going to be a staying hurdler. I imagine, if we're good enough, she might be aimed at the Grade 1 at Fairyhouse at Easter. That's the sort of route - two and a half miles - that we would take with her.
Sancta Simona I think is very good. She won her maiden hurdle at Galway and is going I just hope the ground at Down Royal isn't too fast for her on Friday, but she's a mare who could be top class, and likes a bit of nice ground.
Faugheen is great. We're very very pleased with him. We haven't really decided whether we will go novice chasing or hurdling, but I would say hurdling is favoured at the moment. I've got to talk to his owner Rich (Ricci).
He was over here last week and was delighted with how he looked. We said we'd leave it for another while until the horse has started doing fast work to see where we'd go. As much as I'd love to see him going chasing, he might be better off staying hurdling.
Melon is going to take on the Champion Hurdle route again this year. I think he will improve from what he did last year, which leaves him right up there at the top of it. I think what we learnt last year in Cheltenham will be huge when it comes back around in March.
I imagine I have a Champion Hurdle career marked out for Saldier down the line, whether he will do it this year or not, I'm not sure. We might try different races, different trips. If he's good enough, he'll get an entry in it, but we think he's a real nice horse that maybe in a year's time might be better aimed for that race. We might try intermediate races with him in the meantime.
Mr Adjudicator was second to Saldier at Punchestown and to Farclas at Cheltenham in the top four-year-old hurdles. He's not a chasing type, so he's going to be hurdling and will be a staying hurdler in time. Our Stayers' Hurdle winner Penhill is scheduled to be back around Christmas time.
Next Destination definitely goes over fences. He looks every inch a chaser and he is one that I am very much looking forward to. Getabird will also go chasing, he's matured hugely, so we're also looking for to him.
With Draconien, initially after Punchestown I thought I'm going to stick hurdling, but when I saw how much he matured over the summer I said, 'this fellow is a chaser,'. We schooled him over fences the other day; he's very, very good, so I'm going to go chasing with him.
Draconien looks like he could be in the Footpad league. It's a big league to be in, but that is the league we are aspiring to be in at this stage of the season with him, though I don't think he can run as often. He'll have a much tighter schedule.
Bacardys I feel I have to go back chasing with. We can always revert to hurdles if things don't work out, but I feel he deserves another chance. He only ran in two chases last year, so he will try again.
Annamix is a horse we obviously have huge time and watching him go around there this morning, he's a huge stride. He will got the same route as we tried to go with him last year - the Supreme Novices' Hurdle. At the moment I haven't any idea where he'll start off, but with last year's history, I want wet ground for him.
Quick Grabim is very sharp, so I'm hoping he'll be good enough for the Royal Bond Novice Hurdle at Fairyhouse. We'll take it from there, hopefully he'll go down that two mile novice route as well.
Dorrells Pierji won well at Galway last weekend. His point-to-pointing and all his bumper runs made a huge difference to him that day, because he was a very experienced horse in a race like that. He'll want two and a half miles plus - we can go way out to three miles with him.
Royal Rendezvous looked very very good at Galway too, winning by 16 lengths. I know he got beaten in a bumper at Galway, I just think we ran him in the wrong bumper, and without that he'd be unbeaten on the track.
Now he's settled in over hurdles and is another one I will be aiming for the Royal Bond. I had always thought with his pedigree that he was going to be a staying novice hurdler, but what he showed me the other day he's plenty of speed, and his temperament means that two miles might be plenty for him at this stage, until he learns to relax more in his races.
Every day of the week, Carefully Selected is going to be a stayer. He's a chaser down the road and is going to be a staying novice hurdler this year. Black Bow looks every inch a chaser too.
For this year he looks like a staying novice hurdler, however, he's by Stowaway and his racing attitude means he might be better off at two miles for the time being. Tornado Flyer can go up to two and a half miles, and he should be good enough to go up to two miles five to be a Ballymore Novices' Hurdle horse. He has the speed to be a two mile novice hurdler, but we'll see when he goes jumping what he does.
Mister Blue Sky impressed me hugely when winning at Wexford last weekend on his hurdling debut. For a four-year-old coming off the flat to jump the way he did, and race the way he did - I think this fellow is top notch.
Mount Leinster is doing great work at home here and looks a real nice bumper horse. Yukon Lil looked very good the day she won, I know she got beaten in Killarney, but I think Patrick (Mullins, jockey) blamed himself that day. We think she's very good, and will try to stick to those nice bumpers for mares.
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