Sunday Supplement: Wullie’s Dominant Grip Tightening

Sunday supplement

By Tony Stafford

Two weeks ago, I started my weekly offering with a moan about a neighbour’s loud reggae music that stopped sleep. Last night, I had another sleepless inconvenience, the wind continually causing the front door to bang noisily, around once a minute.

So don’t think that we get away with it down South. True there’s no sign of the River Lea’s overflowing yet, but if Louis van Gaal can talk of running away, Jose Mourinho has already gone and that Arsenal can lose 4-0 to Southampton, then anything’s possible in this crazy world.

The door thing worried me simply because I am becoming paranoid that when we’re both out one day, the door will blow open – once a few years back a bedroom window did just that – and our little Yorkie will run out into the big bad world.

Silly maybe, but I bet even in such vulnerable to flooding places like York, there will have been few expecting England’s version of the Boxing Day tsunami of 2004 to happen in his backyard. Swathes of Yorkshire and Lancashire, even in Manchester’s centre and Salford, have succumbed. Could things get worse for United fans? Probably yes.

One soul seemingly unaffected by the extremes of weather is Willie Mullins, Ireland’s champion trainer over jumps for so long that even people like Nicky Henderson have got to the stage of almost believing he can never beat him, even with a stylish winner such as Altior, so impressive in Kempton’s Boxing Day opener.

That said, Limerick’s abandonment yesterday – it passed this morning’s inspection – probably cost him a couple of winners, but he still managed a personal five-timer headed up by the flawless Faugheen in the Christmas Hurdle. It must have been quite a shock to him that Vautour was unable to repel Cue Card’s persistent challenge from the last fence in the King George.

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I’ll leave others to ponder the implications of those two races, but there’s more than enough of interest from his four Irish winners at Leopardstown, which included a treble for his amateur jockey son Patrick on A Toi Phil, Douvan and Bacardys in the bumper. Pat was given a rare chance to shine outside the latter category as Ruby Walsh and Gigginstown’s jockey Bryan Cooper were otherwise engaged at Sunbury-on-Thames.

Such is Mullins’ domestic dominance, for all the Gigginstown fuel that comes Gordon Elliott’s way, he is already onto 108 wins in the eight months of the present season, with many of the major races still to come. The Racing Post converts earnings from Euros into £s and so far he’s above £1.4 million, which should be taken into context with the more than £13 million over the past five campaigns.

Henderson’s almost van Gaal-like resignation at the impossibility of matching the Irishman comes with all sporting activity. You seem impregnable. You have the best sources and the richest clients and then someone else comes along with better contacts and even richer than richest buyers. Step up Mr Mullins.

But his sourcing of raw material takes him and his owners to unlikely places. We did a bit about Walk in the Park, the one-time Michael Tabor-owned son of Montjeu, who chased home (at a distance of five lengths) another Montjeu colt, Motivator, in the 2005 Derby.

Walk in the Park was sourced by Tabor, via BBA Ireland at the Tattersalls Breeze-up sales as a two-year-old and was trained by John Hammond, before changing hands at the end of his career. He’s the sire of Douvan, and now Min, who was transformed from a twice-run maiden in France to a wide-margin winning machine first time out by Mullins, and he is probably the horse Henderson would most like to avoid with Altior if at all possible.

It’s been rather circuitous, but if anything, Mullins has arrived at an even more unlikely stallion source from which to make a challenge for next March’s Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham.

Yesterday at Leopardstown, the Knight Frank Juvenile Hurdle contained several proper contenders for high rank, including the multiple winners Rashaan – ex Aga Khan – and Jer’s Girl along with Footpad, another of those French imports to win first time for Mullins, cantering clear of a big field.

The quality of the line-up was such that Officer Sydney, unbeaten in two for Gordon Elliott, was allowed to start at 25-1, double the price of the least experienced member of the field, the once-raced Apple’s Jade. The filly came with a late run under Johnny Burke to catch Jer’s Girl in the last few strides, eight lengths away from a toiling Footpad who was sporting the Simon Munir colours.

Some pedigrees might be obscure, but Apple’s Jade’s is almost comically so. She is a daughter of the Sadler’s Wells sire Saddler Maker out of a mare by Nikos. Saddler Maker, who is out of an Alleged mare (Vincent O’Brien stars on both sides) ran nine times without a win in France for the Coveliers family, three members of which, namely R (full name unknown), Pierre and Damien are variously registered as owner or breeder of products of the mare.

Apple’s Jade was the fourth of five consecutive matings between the pair and finally there has been a different sire, Montmartre, for the 2015 product. She won her only race before Saturday at Vichy in May, starting 21-1 and winning with a stylish turn of foot.

Saddler Maker had been standing for Euro 1,700, but this has risen to Euro 2,000 for next year, so be quick as when M. Coveliers realises what he’s sold, the fee’s going up.

It’s doubtful that the trend towards breeding to AQPS mares will continue. Of the 2012 crop which included Apple’s Jade, 21 Pur Sang (thoroughbred) mares were covered, 16 AQPS and bizarrely, two Anglo-Arab mares found their way into Saddler Maker’s harem. Of 27 listed in France Galop’s site for 2015, only four were thoroughbred and 23 AQPS.

Needless to say, it was in the Gigginstown silks that Apple’s Jade made her first steps in Ireland. I was taken by the run, but even more by her unlikely heritage, not that Mullins ever worries about trifles like that.



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