They’re OFF and FLYING
Tony Keenan casts his eye over the horses that have come out of the traps quickly this jumps season
form at this point though where he will run remains a mystery;Willie Mullins on possible targets is confusing enough without Rich Ricci adding further murk to the picture with his own stable tours and punters betting the Closutton horses ante-post need to thread carefully with too many voices emerging from the yard; there is Ruby, David Casey and Paddy Mullins there too.Vroum Vroum Mag’s versatility could prove a major problem for punters playing early as she seems set to be used as a ‘super-sub’ which in some way reflects all that is wrong with the Mullins method of placing horses; she is being campaigned around others rather than being put in the spots that are best for her. This is why De Bromhead getting Valseur Lido, for all that he was part of the Mullins B-team, is a tonic; he is just the type of horse that suffered for the campaigning of star stablemates and now we might get a true measure of his ability.
Of the other stayers, the future of Don Cossack remains without clarity and we won’t see him until the New Year but Djakadam should be out earlier. Road To Riches is worth mentioning too and he went with promise at Gowran in October, ridden out the back to restore his confidence following the Galway Plate debacle; he’s one that hasn’t always had things break his way but has shown great bouncebackability throughout his career and might well do so having had some time off for treatment on an ailing back.
The Ryanair is hardly worth mentioning at this point with Mullins always likely to deflect one of his toppers into the race late on but early favourite Black Hercules makes no appeal; he won a weak JLT that was further weakened by some of the main players failing to get around and has plenty to find to compete in open company. One second-season chaser that could make the breakthrough however is Sub Lieutenant and he’s already rated the superior of Black Hercules by Timeform. He’s simply looked a different animal since joining De Bromhead, transformed from the laboured plodder of last season, and won’t be out of place in Grade 1s judging on his early-season efforts.
Faugheen and Annie Power remain the key horses in the hurdling division but it was disappointing to read that Ricci has said they will not race against each other should both make it to the Festival intact.A lot can happen between now and then of course and both horses have a history of injury but to talk of a World Hurdle for Faugheen is an insult;Mullins seems confident he would return to his best and he was better than ever in winning the Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown last January. It is worth pointing out that the trainer has rarely run one of his stars in the World Hurdle with Annie Power the notable exception in 2014.
One Mullins horse that could be interesting stepping up in grade at two miles is Ivan Grozny and he could land one of the weaker Grade 1s this term.Having proved hard to settle early in his career, he has been transformed by the switch to frontrunning tactics and has more than a little of the Arctic Fire and Wicklow Brave about him, both of those having made the jump