What will Willie do?

It’s been a quiet week on the Bay of Freedom front and I am taking the ‘no news is good news’ approach.  My only real activity was to take advantage of the $/Euro exchange rate and send across seven month’s training fees  (which would have only been six months worth last year).

I should also add that Ber completely spoilt the illusion and admitted that she took 50 photos before finding three good enough to send to me – I just hope she didn’t notice that I only used one.  She also said that, since it’s a good five weeks after the baby is born, she is planning on flying over to Cheltenham for the day all being well.  Would you please just stay focused Ber!

It’s a little different blog this week as I have been amusing myself with the formbook and trying to anticipate who will and will not run at Cheltenham. This blog is more for the racing anoraks amongst us; we will return to Ferragamo format next week!

Peter and I have only the one horse to worry about so I started thinking what Willie Mullin’s plans will be for Cheltenham; for two main reasons:

1)      This is the time of year for endless and pointless speculation, and

2)      Willie Mullins has the potential to enter 15 or more horses who could be rated higher than Bay of Freedom so the more of these we can discount, or decide are unlikely to run, the better.

At this point my US attorneys have insisted I make it clear that I do not know Willie, have never met him and have no inside information. In addition, any views expressed are entirely my own and subject to the same potential ridicule as anyone else’s opinions (I added the last bit)

Willie Mullins looking suitably perplexed

Willie Mullins looking suitably perplexed

What really got me fired up was the reaction to Balko Des Flos winning at Leopardstown last Sunday. He beat other unraced horses in a slow time and was immediately installed as a 14/1 chance for the Cheltenham Bumper (which makes him the 5th or 6th favourite) – I was left scratching my head because I don’t see any way he’s actually going to turn up at Cheltenham. Let me explain my logic:

He is owned by Gigginstown House Stud. I know that Willie Mullins stated after the race that the owners have no objection to going to Cheltenham but all available evidence is contrary to that. Firstly, their racing manager Eddie O’Leary felt it necessary to issue a warning back in January 2012 that the two ante post favourites (Don Cossack and Un Atout) were highly unlikely to run adding “It's just a race we don't particularly like as we think it can ruin a good young horse”

It would seem that , for once in racing, actions speak as loud as words as a review of the last ten runnings of the bumper shows that no Gigginstown horses have taken part.  Mullins did say that last year (2014) they didn’t have a horse good enough to go and that may be true; it is equally true that Don Cossack (2012) and Samain (2011) were possibly the two best Bumper horses of their respective years (never mind the best Gigginstown bumper horses) and they didn’t even get entered.

This may be the year that it all changes and there is no doubt that Gigginstown have some quality Bumper horses but, somehow, I doubt it. Even if they do, I very much doubt that they are going to put a four-year old through the grind of that particular race. If I was looking to back Balko Des Flos or, indeed, Valerian Bridge, Potters Point or Classic Place (other Gigginstown horses trained by Mullins) I would be holding onto my money until they appeared in the paddock on 11th March.

The one Gigginstown horse I didn’t mention, because he isn’t listed in the betting right now, is the one that intrigues me the most: Stone Hard. I thought he was pretty impressive on his debut and expect him to win his race at Gowran easily tomorrow which, I am certain, will see him quoted in the ante post lists.

Tomorrow’s Gowran Bumper is interesting more for the horses who were not declared than the ones who are. Mullins had some of his top bumpers entered; Up for Review, Bellshill, Bordini and Turcagua but none are running. Similarly two good Gigginstown horses trained by Gordon Elliott were not declared: Tycoon Prince and Whistle Dixie.

I find this interesting given that there are only two more Winner’s Bumpers in Ireland before Cheltenham (both at Naas on Feb 7th and 22nd). The first is over 2m 3 furlongs (which is 3 furlongs longer than the Cheltenham race and so not always ideal prep) and the second is only 2 ½ weeks before the big day.

I don’t see how Mullins can get a run into all of the above named plus a few more (including well fancied Au Quart de Tour and Pylonthepressure). Maybe he’s going to go straight to Cheltenham with some of these (just like we’re doing with Bay of Freedom), we shall see. My own view is that Mullin’s Cheltenham bumper team will look something like this:

Au Quart De Tour

Up for Review


If Gigginstown do break the habits of a lifetime then I think Stone Hard could be the one. The other horse who would be noteworthy is Pylonthepressure.

That’s not many from the 15 quoted high in the betting but it’s worth remembering these statistics:

-          Willie Mullin’s has had, respectively, 3,3,2,2 and 3 runners in the last five years. He won in two of those years

-          In terms of number of runners, his 10 year average* is 3.3 and his 20 year average is 2.5. (*This is skewed by 2009 when he had no less than 8 runners. Adjusting for this his average is under 3)

-          He has won the race eight times in total; on four of those occasions he only had one runner. (Caveat: he does , of course, have many more horses these days)

-          He has never run a four year-old in the race; he has never run a Gigginstown horse. Not good factors for fans of Balko Des Flos

Talking about statistics I have decided that there are, to paraphrase, lies, damn lies, statistics and Racing Post Bumper Ratings. If you have any appetite for my rant on this subject please press the green button

The other interesting Bumper news this week was the fact that Alan Potts has bought Supasundae and he has been transferred from Ian Balding to Henry DeBromhead; no ideas on the price but he was pretty impressive in the Listed Ascot Bumper before Christmas. This probably leaves Barry Geraghty without a mount as Nicky Henderson seems to have similar views to Gigginstown as regards the Cheltenham Bumper.

That’s all for now – I’m off to see to arrange a surprise gift for Ber (and Peter, I suppose) when the baby is born; nine days and counting! Which reminds me: I haven’t received my December statement yet......