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 Coral.ie 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…
Stats sourced from the excellent Proform Database