horse racing

What we learned from the weekend: 16th & 17th January…

Respect the Mullins!

Another weekend in the form book. Another weekend closer to the festival. ANOTHER weekend dominated by Willie Mullins!

Can anyone or anything stop this man?

Five winners at the weekend, all five coming at Listed level or above. Another five running into the places. Wouldn’t have even been his A-Team that were out and about either!

His last runner of the weekend. Killultagh Vic, even tried to hand the race to others at the final fence! Didn’t work though, did it! Still got up on the line!

With all that in mind there really is only one place to start for this weeks ‘What we learned from the weekend’ post…

What we learned from the weekend: 16th & 17th January… 

1. Respect the Mullins at Warwick…

Three runners at the track at the weekend returning two winners and a second place, the second placed horse finishing runner-up behind his stable-mate.

Dominance simply does not describe the man.

That brings Mullins’ overall record at the track to a rather tasty…

6/9 | 67% S/R | +£7.91 BFLSP – Win & Place 7/9 | 78% S/R

The two that didn’t place were…

Rathvindin who fell three out when still bang in contention.

Vesper Bell who un-seated in the 2014 Classic Chase. That one is no surprise, however, as Mr Mullins has that shocking 0/63 record in handicap chases on this side of the Irish Sea.

He strolls over for the January meeting and/or the February meeting and simply walks  away with whatever prize he fancies.

The surprising thing for me about this weekends runners was the fact that his two runners in the Grade 2 Neptune Investments Novices’ Hurdle – Thomas Hobson & Open Eagle – were sent off at 5/1 & 7/1! A once raced (and hyped up) Dan Skelton runner, Born Survivor, headed the market at 6/4.

The odds on the Mullins pair were simply ludicrous. Insane in fact.

Never ignore a Mullins Warwick raider, they mean business!

Sticking with Mullins…


2. The next Willie Mullins County Hurdle/Martin Pipe Hurdle winner may have run on Sunday…

He may not be too crash-hot in handicap chases on this side of the Irish Sea but he knows how to nail a handicap hurdle or two, specifically the County Hurdle and the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockey’s Hurdle.

Since 2010 he has landed three County Hurdles and three Martin Pipe Hurdles at the Cheltenham Festival. All six of those winners could be found by using the following little angle…

Willie Mullins County Hurdle/Martin Pipe Hurdle runners | Aged 5yo or 6yo | SP 25/1 or less

Applying those filters gives the following set of figures…

6/17 | 35% S/R | +£75.81 BFLSP – Win & Place 12/17 | 71% S/R 

All six of his winners from only 17 qualifiers.

There were no qualifiers in 2012 and his two qualifiers in 2013 both placed.

The others years under scrutiny provided winners and a healthy profit.

It’s an extremely simple angle but also extremely profitable.

So who could be the likely candidate this year?

Step forward 5yo KALKIR, who ran an excellent second in the Handicap Hurdle at Leopardstown on Sunday.

It was his first run for 10 months, since pulling up in last seasons Triumph Hurdle, but the promise he showed in the early part of his juvenile campaign is clearly still there and there is every chance he will improve a bundle for this outing.

He holds an entry for the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury although that track hasn’t been the happiest hunting ground for Mullins raiders in recent seasons, with his 18 runners all finishing un-placed.

A solid mid-division finish there for Kalkir would be the ideal prep run for a tilt at the County Hurdle (or Martin Pipe Hurdle should they fancy stepping him up in trip) and providing he isn’t strung out with the no-hopers in the betting at Cheltenham (he shouldn’t be) then he will be a snug qualifier on my Mullins County/Martin Pipe Hurdle angle.

Even if he doesn’t end up heading to the festival he’s well worth keeping on the radar as he is surely some way better than his current mark of OR 137 (will go up for this).

Keep Kalkir on the radar, he’s definitely got a handicap hurdle in him somewhere before seasons end… 


3. Headgear could be the answer for Houblon Des Obeaux?

After looking likely to finish pulled-up at one stage in the Classic Chase at Warwick on Saturday the likeable 9yo eventually plugged on dourly down the home-straight to finish a credible 4th (albeit beaten a rather hefty 34L come the line).

He’s had a pretty average season to date, pulling in a form line of 9984 and yet to get closer than 18L in any of his 4 races.

After this run his jockey Liam Treadwell hinted that headgear may now be applied to sharpen him up and rejuvenate him.

But is that really the key to him? And what’s the record with Venetia Williams trained horses when wearing first time headgear?

Well since the start of 2011 this is the record…

3/69 | 4% S/R | -£43.68 BFLSP – Win & Place 18/69 | 28% S/R 

63% below expectation

Hmmm, a bit of a worry to say the least.

I have a feeling that he’s maybe just not had his bang on ideal conditions for a number of runs now and a little switch in the races they target him at may in fact be the key.

For starters he is now 0/13, 1 place over 3m 0.5f or further (Saturday’s race was 3m5f) and I still think his absolute best trip is a bare 3m (even a little shorter of that would be OK although not below 2m5f). Yes he has placed in a Hennessy but the fact he is yet to WIN when racing over further than a bare 3m is a worry.

Heavy ground probably isn’t bang on ideal for him either as he is now 1/7, 0 places on that ground, with his ideal underfoot conditions probably being Good to Soft (four of his career wins have come on Good to Soft although Soft is manageable).

I also think Aidan Coleman may be the perfect jockey for him as he has ridden him to all his career win and place efforts whilst other jocks are now 0/7, 0 places when on top (Liam Treadwell was riding him here). He’s maybe just a horse that takes a little bit of knowing.

Added to all that is the fact he’s possibly at his absolute best in fields of 10 or less as he is now 1/19, 2 places in fields of 11+ but a rather more fetching 5/17, 5 places in fields of 10 or less.

If you pull those angles together you actually get a form line of 22124111 (Soft or better ground | 2m5f – 3m | Coleman riding | Fields of 10 or less).

The last two times he’s had those conditions he finished second behind Coneygree and second behind The Young Master (giving him bundles of weight).

There is no doubt at all that he is now on a very winnable handicap mark (ran in the Classic Chase off OR 146 and will probably be dropped a couple more for the effort) and although headgear could liven him up I would personally like to see him aimed at a more appropriate contest before reaching for any headgear.

Doesn’t need ALL the conditions I highlighted above but most boxes ticked would be preferable.

There are wins in the Hobo yet if they just switch their sights a little…

Ben (NTF)

Stats sourced from the excellent Proform Database

Proform Racing | The professional Formbook

11 responses to “What we learned from the weekend: 16th & 17th January…”

    • Hi Paul

      The filters make sense as a Mullins 5yo/6yo has a decent chance of still not being quite anchored by the handicapper.

      Also unlikely that a Mullins ‘rag’ would stroll in these days but as it’s a Festival handicap you can stretch the parameters a bit (normal handicap you may consider 16-1 or less for example – Festival you can stretch it up to 25/1 area).

      No guarantees it will continue but certainly makes sense and will be interesting to see any qualifiers this year.

      Cheers – Ben (NTF)

  1. Great read as always Ben.
    Managed to get on the Mullins gravy train at the weekend.
    Rev/fc hacked up… happy days:)

  2. Hi Ben,

    He’s a bit of a puzzle is Houblon and he’s beginning to look like one of those who are treading the fine line between finished and well handicapped.

    You could argue that he shouldn’t be winning a fair few of those recent races; giving a now 150 The Young Master 19lb and then trying to give now 170+ rated Coneygree 1lb. Having looked at his 3m pattern it’s hard to justify his outing in the Scottish National next time out. Then he’s gone to the Sodexo off 159 which was a huge task given he was only 144 when he won it in 2013. And he wasn’t improving at that point.

    But his last 3 races are a worry; tailed off in the Hennessy off a similar mark to his 2nd to Many C. Then on his penultimate start he’s “soon beaten” in the Sodexo, from a kinder mark and then lto he was probably flattered if anything. There were 4 horses fell or unseated at late stages of the race and all of them were fancied.

    There is another pattern (almost) on his days sicne last run;

    He has won from 42, 15, 195, 17, 199, 21, and 217(Hennessy 2nd) – so he’s won twice and beaten not far in a Hennessy off breaks of 195+, which is his summer break from April onwards. But he also has those wins at 15, 17 and 21 days which gives his pattern an odd look. He can take 6 months out and win and he can turn out within 3 weeks and win but he seemingly can’t do anything outside of this?

    What we might have seen is him running in his pattern in races in which he’s outclassed, but then out of his pattern in races in which he should be putting up a show.

    I wouldn’t have run him at Warwick latest and if they’d skipped that race and sent him over 3 miles I wonder if we’d be seeing a different result? Maybe we should be looking at his entries for suitable races wiothin his DSLR pattern over the next 3 weeks and take it from there. And failing improvement wait until he comes back after his summer break and in the Sodexo off 142 and 10-9ish. And then I think it’s time to draw a line through him.

    Anyway, thanks for the updates Ben.


    • Hi BL

      Agree he’s definitely treading the fine line between finished and well-handicapped. Excuses can be made (to a certain extent) for some of his recent runs so I’m erring on the side of well-handicapped for now but you don’t want to hold on to these types for too long. Ideally we get to see him under ideal conditions before long, then we can make a better judgement.

      Interesting little DSLR angle that, good spot. May be Venetia planning and plotting with him. Bang him out fit and fresh first time up or get a pipe-opener in him and then fire him back relatively quickly with race fitness bang on his side.

      He’s a bit of a puzzler but hopefully still life in the old boy yet…

      Ben (NTF)

  3. Hi Ben

    Willie Mullins 0/63 in handicap chases! Does that include the festival races? I’m putting together some ideas for day 1 & as well as the Mullins/Walsh/Ricci 4 timer I’m thinking Black Hercules for the 4 miler. The only 2 races left are the handicap chases but looks like I will be giving Mr Mullins a wide berth for those 2. I know it’s early days but do you have any thoughts for the Festival & Centenary handicap chases yet?

    • Hi Gareth

      Yes amazing but true, Mr Mullins is 0/63 in Handicap Chases on this side of Irish Sea. Wrote about this last year and I think his last handicap chase winner was (amazingly!) Hedgehunter in the National!

      No thoughts on the day 1 handicaps to be honest, wouldn’t be looking at them until much closer to the day, plenty of water to go under the bridge for them and nothing has caught my eye yet with regards to the races.

      Cheers – Ben (NTF)

    • Ben,

      Houblon’s got an entry for Saturday in a 23 mile chase at Sandown. It’s right on his DSLR pattern at 3 weeks since last run. He’s held an entry for the Grand Natioanl trial on 20th Feb for the last couple weeks so this entry has only just been made I think, as I check every day. It’s over 3 miles and there isn’t one in there i’d be particularly worried about. I think we’re on 🙂


  4. Hi Ben,

    Obviously Houblon’s not in a 23 mile chase 🙂 What I meant to write was either 3 mile chase or 24f chase and it came out as that. I got excited you see.

    • Hi BL

      23 mile Chase!! I know some horses would appreciate that but Houblon probably wouldn’t be one 😉

      I hadn’t noticed his Sandown entry on Saturday. Ground will probably be fine for him (currently Good to Soft) and with only 13 entered at the 5 day stage he should get the smaller field he seems to want. Back at a bare 3m as well so if Coleman gets the leg up there should be no excuses for him this time.

      If he runs this should tell us if he’s still got the fire or he’s potentially ‘gone at the game’.

      Cheers – Ben (NTF)

      p.s. I will reply to your Smad Place/Djakadam comments later on the 2nd of Feb post 🙂

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