The Mullins Factor

February 15th, 2016 | Marten's Current Racing Diary

Following my week away I returned to hear concerns that a few of Willie Mullins’ horses had been running below form.

With a strike-rate in Ireland, as I write, of 40 per cent in bumpers, 38 per cent in hurdles and 28 per cent in chases there would not appear to be grounds for great concern. These returns are especially impressive when you consider the class of race that a proportion of his horses run in. However there have undoubtedly been a few disappointments, notably with his UK raiders, with just one of his eight runners in Britain winning on Saturday. Mind you, five of those were in the Betfair Hurdle and the nearest any of them got was Kalkir, who finished sixth.

Mullins went on record over the weekend to say that his five Betfair Hurdle runners performed like “hairy goats” following a disappointing raid to Doncaster at the end of January, when Up For Review clearly failed to sparkle.

In the last nine days Valseur Lido and Black Hercules have been high-profile fallers when looking sure to win, but it is possible that there may be something lurking in the yard. Mullins has had a few runners scope dirty, I believe, but it’s not as if his horses are coming home weakly or struggling to finish – something that can be strongly indicative of something untoward.

Looking at the current ante-post markets for Cheltenham I don’t think I would want a bet with anyone’s money. Min is probably too short at 5/4 for the Supreme – you can get 7/4 if you hunt around and 3 on Betfair. Altior has the stronger form, in my view, while his stablemate Buveur D’Air has more to offer.

The defeat of L’Ami Serge on Saturday leaves the way easier for Douvan in the Arkle, but nobody in their right mind would step in now at a top price of 2/5. Ladbrokes don’t want anything to do with Faugheen in the Champion Hurdle – they are way shortest at 1/4 – while Annie Power is no better than 8/11 for the Mares’ Hurdle.

The strongest home-based representative for any races at the Festival is Yanworth, now as short as 4/5 for the Neptune Novices’ Hurdle. Yorkshill, Bellshill and Long Dog – all trained by Mullins – are next in the betting. Un De Sceaux is no better that 8/11 for the Champion Chase while Vautour is 4/6 with a run for the Ryanair Chase.

Apart from Yanworth, the best chances for a home-based success are in the RSA Chase, with More Of That and Seeyouatmidnight set to tackle No More Heroes, Bristol De Mai in the JLT Novices’ Chase and Thistlecrack and Cole Harden in the World Hurdle. Barters Hill heads the market in the Albert Bartlett as well.

My deadline for the Bulletin Book is Saturday, 5th March, to ensure it is out and on its way to clients the following Thursday. Something usually comes to the aid of the bookmakers – last year it was Annie Power’s last-flight fall – and I again expect a surprise or two.

The bookmakers are sure to come up with a few concessions in order to stimulate interest. They should be offering a ‘non-runner, no bet’ concession on all the races rather than just the four championship events, but they seem more interested in using ante-post prices to promote their name rather than service clients.

I will need to find inspiration from somewhere but at the likely prices if I can get one of the odds-on shots beaten then we should be in with a chance of making a profit. I also have the handicaps to help me – always a source of intrigue and my favourite races of the Festival. I already have a couple of names that have been passed on to me and you can rest assured I will be seeking out a few more.

Bye for now