“I’m delighted to have three winners, I’m just happier the horses are starting to perform”

Updated: March 13, 2018
Willie Mullins 2

Willie Mullins leads the Cheltenham Festival Trainers’ Championships after day one successes with the highly impressive Footpad, Benie Des Dieux in the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle and the courageous Rathvinden in the National Hunt Chase.

Talking to the media after the win of Footpad, Mullins mentioned his concern that the only mistake the horse made in the race would cost the odds-on favourite, many people actually got even money after using http://openodds.com/ :

“The thing that probably wasn’t in the script was for him to make that mistake at the first one down the back. I wondered could he recover from that on that ground. Ruby just sat and he played the hand he wanted to play.”

In outlining long term plans for his winner, Mullins offered:

“This fellow could be a Gold Cup horse. Lots of Gold Cup horses have won the Arkle and this fellow is much more laid back than some. I think we will have a good chat with connections and see if they would like to go in that direction. He has plenty of stamina.”

On the victory of the seven-year-old daughter of Great Pretender, Benie Des Dieux, in the OLBG Mares’ Hurdler, the Irish champion trainer said:

“I thought that was the ride of the week. Ruby was so good on her, to get her up the hill like that. She’s a big mare, a nice mare, and after her first win I nick-named her ‘Benie Des Douvan’ when I saw what she could do. I don’t know whether she is going to be as good as that but she’s four from four for us now.”

Victorious on Footpad in the G1 Racing Post Arkle Novices’ Chase, Ruby Walsh, recording his 58th victory at The Festival, said of Benie Des Dieux:

“Benie Des Dieux won a schooling hurdle at Thurles when Katie rode her – this black mare came out in the distance that we didn’t even know we had. Then we went chasing with her but she has had a few issues training.

“With Vroum Vroum Mag up in the air, Willie said that we needed something else and he has been targeting her at this for a while. David Casey schooled her a couple of times over hurdles but I had never sat on her until today. She is laden with stamina – I thought that she had a bit more gears but she really ground it out. She’s had a few issues training her but Willie had been targeting her at this race for a while.”

The trainer’s son Patrick gave Rathvinden (9/2) a patient ride to a claim a thrilling victory in the National Hunt Chase bringing up his father’s opening day treble. He was banned by the stewards for six days, however, for using his whip above the permitted level and without giving his horse time to respond from the last fence.

On the race itself Mullins senior said: “I was happy enough watching because I can tell by Patrick’s body language how he’s going. I thought he might win it easier but the second horse put up some fight. They pulled a long way clear and it was a good finish after four miles on that ground.”

Rathvinden had to be dismounted after the line and was doused with water by the veterinary team. He did not return to the winner’s enclosure, but walked back to the racecourse stables seemingly none the worse.

Willie Mullins was thrilled with Melon’s close second in the Unibet Champion Hurdle:

“It was a terrific performance from him. At least it vindicated what we thought of him. He just did not face the hood on his previous start. I think he is a horse who is going to improve. He will be better next year.

“I am not too worried about the ground, there are plenty of horses who will improve with better ground. Probably we will keep him hurdling rather than chasing but we will make those decisions later in the season. I am really looking forward to him.”

Regarding Faugheen, sixth in the Grade 1 Unibet Champion Hurdle, his rider Ruby Walsh commented:

“Faugheen ran slow and I would imagine that it would be the three-mile race for him at Punchestown. He’s like all of us – as we get older, we slow down a little bit – and he has slowed down considerably.

“He has gone back past Wicklow Brave coming to the line and that’s the sign of an honest horse to me. He kept galloping all the way up to the winning post and I just think that he wants a good bit further through the race.”

Discussing the disappointing run of Yorkhill, Mullins stated:

“Yorkhill just isn’t performing. It is a bit of a head scratcher. Sometimes horses take a year out. He has been up and down in the trips, fences, hurdles.”



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