Tuesday, February 21, 2023

IRELAND’S champion Jump trainer Willie Mullins has a record 88 Cheltenham Festival winners to his name and has also enjoyed Grand National success with Hedgehunter back in 2005.

The 48 National runners hailing from Mullins’ Closutton base over the years also include two runners-up, most recently Pleasant Company in 2018.

Mullins’ son and assistant Patrick Mullins, who was fourth as a jockey aboard Burrows Saint in 2021, ran through his father’s eight entries for the 15 April contest:

Capodanno (11st 5lbs)

“That is definitely a very workable weight. His form at Punchestown, when he beat Lifetime Ambition and Fury Road, in the Grade One looks very good. The fact that he had a little setback at the start of the season and hasn’t got to improve his rating might work for him. I think that is a mark he could be competitive off.

“Noble Yeats had a similar profile last year and he has got that touch of class about him with a Grade One next to his name. I think the handicapper over the past 10 or 15 years has given the good horses a chance of winning the National.

“You can be competitive over 11 stone so that is a weight you would have to be happy with. He jumps well and he ran well on Sunday at Gowran Park. He might have another run before the National.”

Franco de Port (11st 3lbs)

“Franco’s main aim is to go back to the French Grand National. He was third in that last season. He ran very well in the Thyestes last year off top weight so it showed he can carry a big weight in a handicap. The experience around Auteuil would be an advantage to him around Aintree.

“He could definitely have a live each-way chance. He stays very well and he should be good at jumping those types of fences. Auteuil has been his main aim but timing-wise, the Grand National works quite well with that.

“He probably needs extreme distances to bring out the best of his ability even though he won a two mile novice chaser when he was younger, now he just prefers going a lot further.”

Carefully Selected (11st 1lbs)

“He could be a fascinating contender. He is 10, so he is quite old, but he is fairly lightly-raced. He is a very old-fashioned horse and he almost looks like a dinosaur. He was able to win two bumpers and be second in the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham so he is not slow, but he obviously stays very well.

Thyestes Chase
winner Carefully Selected
Photo: ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy

“He won the Thyestes last time out and he has the physique to carry that weight so that shouldn’t be any problem. He should stay the trip and again he is kind of unexposed. You would like to think he could improve again from Gowran Park as it was only his second run back after a very long break.

“I’d imagine he could be one of our leading fancies. He just had lots of small niggly problems, but you get that with those big heavy horses and he has the ability to make it worth the wait.”

Gaillard Du Mesnil (11st)

“He could be tailor made for this as he ran very well in the Irish Grand National last year. He is obviously a high-class horse that has got plenty of Grade One form. He stays very well and has plenty of experience.

“I’m not sure running in Grade Ones is the right prep for the Grand National as it maybe leaves you a little bit exposed. With that kind of weight it could be different this year if those at the top of the weights stay in.

“You have to take him seriously, but he could just be a bit more exposed than some of our other horses. The plan is to go to Cheltenham and I’ll do my best to have him heading towards the National Hunt Chase, but you know what Willie is like – nothing is set in stone yet.”

Burrows Saint (10st 12lb)

“He gave me a fantastic spin in it a couple of years ago when I thought his stamina probably gave out in the last half a mile. He is back in again and he is in good form. He looks great and is working great and the plan has always been to go back to Aintree.

“The Topham would be an option for him as well so we will see which route we are going nearer the time. Hopefully he can get a bit further than last year if he runs in the National as he didn’t complete the race last year. Maybe as an older horse he will stay better, but we will definitely consider the Topham as well. He is not a soft ground horse. He needs good ground and he wears a tongue strap. He needs to be kept fresh for the spring.”

Mr Incredible (10st 4lbs)

“He is a horse with a lot of ability. He ran a really good race in the Classic Chase at Warwick. He jumped well and stayed well. He did everything perfectly. He looks an ideal National horse and looks like he could be unexposed.

“He will go to Cheltenham first for the Kim Muir and that should be a great experience for him again. I think he has to have a huge chance. He looks like he will have a fantastic weight. We are looking forward to having a good go at Cheltenham and we are really looking forward to going on to Aintree afterwards.”

Recite A Prayer (10st 1lbs)

“He got a short break after his last run and he is back in now. He has continually surprised and has some good form from some of those big handicap chases in Ireland when he is usually carrying high weights. If he could get in here carrying a low weight that would be a big advantage. He finished 12th in the Becher so he has had a run around the track on ground that would have been too soft for him so that will work in his favour as well.”

Captain Kangaroo (9st 8lbs)

“He won the Cork National very well but just seems to have lost his confidence a little bit now. He will need to brush up his jumping before he goes to Aintree if he did manage to get in, but that is probably unlikely.”


By Graham Clark (J0ckey Club)

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