It has been a relatively quiet start to the season for the all-powerful Willie Mullins stable but the legendary trainer has really started to motor in the past couple of weeks and that continued at the weekend. The Closutton handler had a great day on Sunday and a number of them feature in the latest of our road to Cheltenham blogs.
Mullins Dominates Super Sunday In Ireland
The eyes of the racing world were on the Emerald Isle on Sunday afternoon as they hosted two top class jumps cards and it was Willie Mullins who dominated the day.
The big race of the day was the Grade 1 John Durkan Chase at Punchestown and it was Djakadam who won the race for the second year on the spin. The 7YO has been placed 2nd in the past two Gold Cups and he ran a very nice seasonal debut as he claimed the 2m4f contest in nice style against two fit and in-form opponents.
Ruby Walsh gave the horse a cracking front running ride and although Outlander and Sub Lieutenant both ran well, they were unable to land a blow on the winner. The long term aim for Djakadam remains the Cheltenham Gold Cup once again and as a result of this latest win, Bet Victor cut the horse into 8/1, from 12/1, for that race in March and he remains a rock solid each-way prospect.
Elsewhere on the Punchestown card we saw Turcagua claim the maiden hurdle for Mullins and Walsh and he looks a chaser to follow in the future, whilst American Tom won the Beginners Chase over 2m after a long break and he is now as short as 12/1 with Coral for the JLT Novices Chase, which is short enough to be honest.
Mullins may have enjoyed plenty of success at Punchestown but his star horse was down at Cork on Sunday as Douvan finally made his seasonal debut. The unbeaten Arkle hero hacked up, as expected, in the Hilly Way Chase and he once again he reminded us that he is a true equine superstar.
Paul Townend popped the horse out in front at Cork and apart from an iffy jump at the 3rd last, he was far too good for this field and the future remains bright for him. Talk of the horse being stepped up in trip has rightly been put to one side at this stage and he was cut into 4/9f, from 1/2f, for the Queen Mother Champion Chase as a result of this latest success.
Douvan set to stay at 2m this season according to Willie Mullins;
Also at Cork, we should also mention the performance of Dinaria Des Obeaux who dotted up in the 3YO Maiden Hurdle for Gordon Elliott and she is another hot juvenile to consider. She jumped lovely before bolting clear of a big field and quotes of 16/1 for the triumph hurdle seem more than fair for this well-bred juvenile.
Cheltenham Eye Catchers At The International
It is fair to say that the International Meeting at Cheltenham was a little low on star quality this year but there was still plenty of top action for race goers and punters to take note of.
Enda Bolger once again proved he is the master of the Cross Country sphere as Cantlow won the Glenfarclas contest on Friday and in truth, the field were unable to land a blow on the winner.
Given a fine front running ride from Mark Walsh, Cantlow was far too good and he could now join Josies Orders in the Festival equivalent in the spring with Sky Bet now making him an 8/1, from 14/1, shot for that race which looks a more than fair punt at this stage.
Saturday was of course the feature of the two day fixture at Cheltenham and the big race went to Frodon as the Paul Nicholls horse won the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup. Only the 2nd 4YO ever to win the race, Frodon finished the best of all to win with something in hand and given his tender age, he should have plenty of improvement to come.
The Ryanair Chase looks the logical aim for the horse which will be another task altogether and punters shouldn't be too hasty in backing him at 14/1 after such a tough autumn campaign
The New One produced a very nice display to win the International Hurdle for a 3rd time with My Tent Or Yours finding nothing off the bridle once again. It is some effort by The New One to win the race again but his future remains up in the air with chasing potentially still on the agenda and punters should keep their powder dry with him.
Defi Du Seuil made it 3-3 for Philip Hobbs to win the juvenile hurdle at Cheltenham and he looks all class with the future going forward for owner JP McManus. He pinged the last like a top class type and 8/1, from 12/1, for the Triumph Hurdle highlights how highly he is regarded.