BACK TO THE FUTURE
Hello to everybody again after my long time absence from this site. Not too many things have changed bar some more very nice and decent people departing and the world becoming a much more dangerous place.
Willie Mullins is threatening once again to demolish all the opposition at Cheltenham this year. He could have the favourite or close to it in every Championship event and that is unprecedented in this or any other era. The late great Vincent O’Brien, Darkie Prendergast, Paddy Mullins, Michael Dickinson and Andre Fabre could hardly match this dominance even in their pomp but O’Brien came close both on the flat and over jumps so as it stands in my opinion he is still the greatest ever. Willie is catching up at a rate of knots though.
It is interesting to take a look at his methods and see why he has stolen such a march on his contemporaries.
Firstly, he has some of the biggest owners that can go and buy what Willie decides are the correct animals that will go on to become Grade One winners. It is not as simple as it sounds. Mullins rarely buys the ‘obvious’ horse, it doesn’t have to had bolted up in France or wherever on it’s latest start and indeed the maestro will often plump for one of the placed horses or even further down the field. He will also often go for a more angular type of animal that does not have that robust type of rounded figure that many agents and trainers go for, for example Douvan, Vautour etc etc and now Min. Some say Vautour is not angular but to my eye he was when I saw him two years ago. Willie also has no issue at all in buying smallish type horses off the flat and there are no better examples of this than to instance Hurricane Fly and Nichols Canyon. There are many many more similar types. Again many of the other trainers do not prefer this route.
Secondly, the master of Closutton invariably gives his new charges up to a year off when they arrive at his yard , time to strengthen, time to develop mentally and most crucially of all time to acclimate to their new surroundings, this can often be key but is not high on the list for some other yards.
Thirdly, he conditions his string on mostly level gallops as opposed to steep uphill ones which many of his opposition favour. I believe he is not taking the ‘speed’ out of his charges but rather the opposite, he is conditioning for speed as well as stamina.
Fourthly and finally, I am pretty sure that Willie has top class equine scientists and vets working in conjunction with him to make sure that his horses are healthy and that their ‘bloods’ are spot on every time they go to the track. This cannot be underestimated because when their hearts are pumping the blood around their bodies coming to the two furlong marker and they have to dig deep ,well, that is when you want the blood picture to be correct as that is where it hurts. There is no point whatsoever in having the animal with an ‘over the top’ or ‘upside down’ blood reading when it faces into that dour struggle to the finishing line. If they are not right they will simply weaken or even stop. That is where you will be rewarded for having top class animal husbandry in the build up to your race targets and have your charges with the perfect Packed Cell Volume [HCT] and MCV plus no climbing muscle counts and so on and so on.
It is my own belief that you can buy the correct horse, do all the other things correctly and still have no chance come race day if you do not have the animal’s blood picture correct. That was where Vincent O’Brien scored heavily. Perfectly cared for horses that were hardly ever dehydrated or over the top. People think it is akin to ‘rocket science’. It surely is not. A regular blood test once a month and then all perfectly legal simple care after that is all is needed.
I guess in a way what Willie is doing is different to what everybody else is trying as I have outlined above. I currently do not see any other yard training the way he is presently, all things considered. Sure he has injuries, casualties and ones that are simply not good enough to even see the racetrack, he is not immune from those, but the ones that do turn up, well, they just invariably win and win and win…………………………
I must update on the soccer and hurling soon and I hope everybody will be as delighted as I am if Jack Fagan gets his visa………….!!