2019/20 National Hunt horses to follow – Five Willie Mullins horses to follow this season
Our expert takes a look through Willie Mullins’ yard and highlights five horses worth tracking during the 2019/20 National Hunt season.
Despite Gordon Elliott’s best efforts, Willie Mullins ended last season as Ireland’s Champion Trainer for the twelfth season on the bounce. This is an incredible achievement, considering the amount of quality horses Mullins lost when Gigginstown Stud decided to send their top runners to Elliott a couple of years ago. Mullins had to recruit a number of new owners to fill the void and to stay on top of the competition during periods of turmoil and transition proves what a masterful trainer Mullins is.
The highlight of Willie Mullins’ campaign came at Cheltenham, as Al Boum Photo ended his trainer’s agonizing wait for a first Gold Cup with a stunning, surprise victory. Kemboy was supposed to be Mullins’ best chance of sealing Gold Cup glory, but he made up for a first-fence departure at Prestbury Park by scooping top-honours at Aintree and Punchestown later in the spring.
Few would bet against Mullins securing a 14th Irish Champion Trainer title come the end of the 19/20 season and he’s sure to be a leading player in all of the major Festival across Britain and Ireland. We’ve taken a look through his star-studded stables and highlighted five Willie Mullins horses that punters should add to their tracker this term.
Willie Mullins Horses To Follow
Following an impressive bumper campaign, which featured a Grade Two triumph and placed efforts in Grade Ones at Cheltenham and Punchestown, Blackbow featured in many tipster’s notebooks heading into last season. Sadly, a set-back forced him to miss the first half of the campaign and Mullins made the shrewd decision to rough his charge off and give him another summer to fill into his frame.
Seeing as he’s been off the track for so long, Blackbow could be a forgotten horse for many punters and bookmakers and you could catch him at some decent prices when he returns during the autumn and winter months.
The Supreme Novices’ Hurdle could be the objective for Blackbow, but he stayed on gamely to beat the handy Canelo – Now with Alan King – in a three-mile point-to-point in 2017 and Stowaway’s progeny often improve with the step up beyond two miles. He could even end up in the Albert Bartlett.
A tight tussle was expected when Willie Mullins’ newcomer clashed with a well-bred flat runner of Joseph O’Brien’s in the card-closing bumper at Gowran Park at the end of January. What followed was nothing short of a procession, as Blue Sari destroyed Front View – who went on to win a lucrative bumper at the Punchestown Festival – displaying a frightening turn of foot to seal a superb 11 length victory.
JP McManus opened his chequebook to purchase Mullins’ four-year-old soon after that display and Blue Sari’s performance in the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham proved his investment was sound. Envoi Allen was a little too tough to pass on the day, but Mullins’ youngster only enhanced his burgeoning reputation with a valiant second-place finish.
While Envoi Allen looks a strong staying chaser in the making, Blue Sari has the build of a real speedball and I can’t wait to see him jump a hurdle this season. He could take some stopping in next year’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.
Chacun Pour Soi
Chacun Pour Soi stole the headlines the day after Ruby Walsh retired at the Punchestown Festival back in April. Willie Mullins’ charge entered the Grade One Ryanair Novice Chase with a solitary outing on Irish soil under his belt. Robbie Power took the ride as Chacun Pour Soi was pitched in with two heroes from the Cheltenham Festival – Arkle winner Duc Des Genievres and JLT champion, Defi Du Seuil.
I was keen to take Duc Des Genievres on, as I felt he was the fortunate winner of a very messy Arkle, so I wasn’t surprised to see Paul Townend’s mount fail to land a blow. As Defi Du Seuil took aim at Chacun Pour Soi, who had made a couple of errors before hitting the front three from home, I expected Philip Hobbs’ charge to pounce, like he had done to win his two previous Grade Ones.
Yet, the British raider was unable to lay a glove on Chacun Pour Soi, who cruised to a comfortable Grade One victory at the first time of asking. The world is his oyster looking ahead to 2019/20. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Mullins step his French recruit up in trip as the season progresses, but the Champion Chase could well be his primary objective.
For me, Klassical Dream’s victory in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle was one of the stand-out performances of the 2019 Cheltenham Festival. Ruby Walsh’s mount looked keen throughout, carrying his head low in fairly awkward fashion. As rivals stacked up behind the leader coming down the hill, Ruby asked his mount to go and go he certainly did. Klassical Dream pulled effortlessly away from some decent rivals and a superb leap at the last allowed Willie Mullins’ charge to saunter over the line virtually unopposed.
Klassical Dream backed up that showing at Punchestown, claiming the Herald Champion Novices’ Hurdle crown with the minimum of fuss. The way he progressed throughout the campaign bodes well for the future too and, as long as he stays fit, another unbeaten season could be on the cards for this talented young jumper.
Mullins has the option of going over fences with this classy five-year-old next term. The Champion Hurdle, however, seems to be there for the taking in 2019/20 – especially after Espoir D’Allen was ruled out of the entire season – and Klassical Dream should return to Cheltenham as prime contender in Tuesday’s Championship race.
Willie Mullins has sourced many a top National Hunt horse from Colin Bowe’s point-to-point ranks down the years and the latest to roll off that conveyor belt into his County Carlow yard is Ferny Hallow. Following a 15 length from-the-front victory on his only start between the flags, Harold Kirk splashed out £300K to purchase this son of Westerner for Rich Ricci and Ferny Hallow is already receiving quotes for next spring’s Champion Bumper.