The indoor track of my strong team
Willie Mullins wants to get Photo by Al Boum back on the track earlier this season as he charts a route for the two-time Cheltenham Gold Cup hero returning to Prestbury Park in March.
Al Boom Photo ultimately triumphed for the Cheltenham Festival’s most successful coach in his 2019 marquee race, then successfully defended his crown 12 months later.
Both times he’s warmed up for his trip to the Festival with a previous lone appearance in a light campaign – winning New Years Day in Tramore – so it was no surprise that Mullins followed the same path last season. .
However, Al Boom Photo had to settle for an honorable third behind Minella Indo and A Plus Tard in their attempt for a Gold Cup hat-trick and Mullins is planning a busier schedule this time around.
He said: “I really think we’ll take a different route.
“Last year we got caught up a bit because of Covid and the horses having long breaks.
“I think it will benefit him now, at his age and everything, to have more runs and to be more seasoned for the spring.”
Al Boom Photo has already been listed for the Ladbrokes King George VI Chase in Kempton on Boxing Day, while the John Durkan Memorial Punchestown Chase on December 5 has been mentioned as a potential target.
“I’ll try to get it out as soon as possible, definitely by Christmas,” Mullins added.
“I’ll probably go to Tramore, but I’ll give him a run or two before that, I think.”
Al Boom Photo is just one of the many stars that the champion’s trainer is preparing for battle.
Mullins is still a few weeks away from unleashing his big guns, but is satisfied with the progress of his string on the gallops of Closutton.
He said: “It’s actually the best time of year here – because I haven’t done anything yet! All the horses look great and they start to work faster.
“I am delighted with what I have seen these past mornings. The horses, a little sticky in their first work, lighten up and resume the gallop.
“It’s just beautiful, I think.”
Among other established names, Mullins would go to war with this term, most notably the brilliant Everyone For Himself, the breathtaking winner of Ryanair Chase Allaho and Energumene, who will enter in good company after an unbeaten novice season in closing.
Of the latter, the coach said: “He looks good. He just galloped this morning, because he had a bruise the other day, and he’ll probably be working on Saturday.
“I can’t wait for him to come out and build on what he showed us last year.”
A formidable group of potential novice hunters include the 24-length winner Supreme Novices’ Hurdle Enjoy it, and absent for a long time Ferny hollow.
The six-year-old got the better of Appreciate It in the 2020 Bumper Champion and, while he’s been off track since defeating top Bob Olinger in his only hurdles start at Gowran Park 12 years ago months, Mullins reports. in poor health.
He said: “Ferny Hollow is working out of her skin. He worked this morning and is in great shape.
“He looks so strong, and I’m very happy with him. When he’s ready, we’ll find him a race.
“He pulled a muscle or a ligament or something in the back the day he faced Bob Olinger at Gowran, and it took him that long to recover.
“There doesn’t seem to be a problem with him now. He jumps well and gallops well.
Mullins is also home to the first two of last season’s Champion Bumper at Mr. Gerhard and Kilcruit, who are both expected to take a high spot in the Novice Hurdles Division.
“Kilcruit and Sir Gerhard both worked this morning, and I’m very happy with them,” he said.
“We know they jump well because they have been educated a lot.
“I’m not worried about the jumping stakes with any of them, and they’re in great shape.”
Classic Dream is part of a strong Willie Mullins squad against Honeysuckle in this month’s Hatton’s Grace Hurdle, the culmination of the BARONERACING.COM Fairyhouse Winter Festival.
Honeysuckle will be a big favorite to follow in the hoof prints of two more brilliant mares from Solerina and Apple’s Jade by becoming a three-time group one feature winner on Sunday, November 28.
But Mullins, who has already won Hatton’s Grace with Hurricane Fly (2010), Zaidpour (2012) and Arctic Fire (2015), is keen that the superstar Henry de Bromhead does not have him as he pleases.
Injuries have limited Klassical Dream to a handful of starts since winning Cheltenham Festival glory in the 2019 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.
However, he proved his abilities remained intact during a spectacular 487-day return to the sidelines during the Champion Stayers Hurdle at the Punchestown Festival in April.
Patrick Mullins looks back on smashing success for Klassical Dream after long absence at Punchestown Festival
Mullins said Thursday: “Klassical Dream is in good shape and performed well this morning.
“What he did in Punchestown opened my eyes. He was doing well at home before that, but I couldn’t believe he could do this kind of race for the first time against horses from first year.
“I spent a lot of time wondering if I should jump fences. But with my home team we were looking at his strength record and just thought it might be easier to keep him healthy over the hurdles.
“Hatton’s Grace is a great place to start. Horses that win it almost always go to Christmas, Cheltenham and Punchestown, so this is a great indicator.
“A lot will depend on how he performs over the next few weeks, if he’s ready for Fairyhouse.”
Klassical Dream is one of four Hatton’s Grace entries for the champion trainer, with Stormy Ireland, Saldier and Fiery victory also in contention.
Stormy Ireland won at Fairyhouse and Punchestown in the spring, returning to Closutton after a stint in Great Britain with Paul Nicholls.
“She’s a funny little mare. Ruth Dudfield rides her all the time and Ruth tells me when she’s a tiny little tyke that’s when she’s the best, ”Mullins added.
“When she’s almost unmanageable at the gallop, that’s when she seems to be at her best, and she’s in that kind of shape right now.
“She loves Fairyhouse. There she won her first three-year hurdle by 58 lengths, which was an amazing performance.
Saldier is in good shape after winning the Galway Hurdle and a third year at Tipperary, while last year’s Triumph Hurdle winner Burning Victory was last seen finishing second at Cesarewitch in Newmarket.
Mullins said: “When Saldier suffered that fall in Naas (in 2018), he broke his jaw and eye socket, and one side of his face collapsed.
“I think it took him that long to regain his confidence by jumping again. Now that he’s got it back, I hope he can improve.
“I think the two and a half miles of Hatton’s Grace would be in his street.
“I like the idea of playing two and a half years with Burning Victory. Considering her 143 rating, she probably doesn’t really qualify to go there with a chance to win and we need to improve her jump.
Mullins has high hopes for Arctic Warrior among rookies
Mullins should also be well represented in the other two Grade One on the same Fairyhouse map – the Royal Bond Novice Hurdle and the Drinmore Novice Chase.
His potential Royal Bond contenders include Farout and Arctic warrior, both of whom would need to bounce back from short-term losses.
Mullins said: “Farout jumped really well except on the last day for some reason when he jumped horribly at Listowel. He still finished second but was beaten well because of his jump.
“I hope what went wrong that day doesn’t happen again – because if he keeps jumping together, he’ll be involved in the penultimate anyway.
“Arctic Warrior could be anything. He certainly shows me a lot of things around the house – and if all goes well, he’s a horse that will have a really big race.
In the Drinmore, Mullins has a few lower lights in Blue Bay and Robinnie, but think the two could make their presence felt.
He added: “The Bleu Berry is good. I think if things had been different he might have won on the last day, and then you could look at him in a different light.
“I think he has the ability and the physical form of his few races which puts him here with a good chance.
“It’s the same with Robinnia. I thought she had been unlucky in Galway when she fell and ran really well the other day. Very little improvement puts her in the picture, I think.
“While there were some really good winter horses from last season, our two might just have the little bit of fitness and experience to do it.”
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