Published: 20th November
My second instalment of my ten to follow selects a highly promising and yet to run under rules Mullins bumper horse and a highly promising chaser from the Tom George Yard.
Instalment One – If you missed it, covered No More Heroes and Ma Filleule
Instalment Two – Concerns More of That and The New One
Bellshill – Willie Mullins
Many thanks to @dawnapproach2kg who gave me the early heads up on Bellshill but this is my pick of the riches of the Mullins yard on the bumper scene.
I grant you it is incredibly difficult to select a bumper pick in mid November and as I write, he is unraced. That changes at Thurles today as he makes his racecourse debut in their 2m bumper at 3.35.
How can confidence be built in the absence of racecourse evidence? Well let us consider. Mullins has won three of the last eight champion bumpers, he is a man drowning in talent. This situation is becoming more pronounced too as Graham Wylie, Rich Ricci, Gigginstown and more top owners plough more investment into the Irish operation. There was a rumour that Mullins was going to open a English satellite yard which would have confirmed his dominance of National Hunt and likely seen him, in my opinion, challenging for the Champion UK trainer but that has not materialised yet.
So a great track record in the Champion Bumper and frankly, one that is likely to improve. That is a good start.
The connections are not the problem with Bellshill, the question is, where does he rank, amongst the Mullins bumper riches. This is where we are entering a bit of a risky guessing game but @dawnapproach2kg happened upon a chance encounter with the point to point trainer who passed Bellshill on to Mullins. He is a trainer of great repute having had Imperial Commander, Shaneshill and Briar Hill passing through his hands.
He gave a glowing report on the horses chances and while entirely second hand, it piqued my interest. Graham Wylie invested in the horse, although I cannot track down the price paid but clearly he is in top hands.
Shortly after I had the nod on Bellshill, the market moved. 40/1 which was available early on soon shrivelled into a best priced 25/1 (Bet365) with Stan James as short as 16/1. Conclusion, others had the same thoughts.
The horse is out of Kings Theatre, the Galileo of the National Hunt scene. There is little to go on other than rumour, snippets of chat and trainer reputation. Yet, the signs are there, and my recommendation is an investment before 3.35pm today on his Champion Bumper chances.
Gods Own – Tom George
Tom George probably deserves a top chase horse, something to replace the yards beautiful Nacarat who was so often a lead horse for Kauto Star in the ing George. In God’s Own, he seems to have found a successor that might better those achievements.
If you are going to pick a novice horse to follow over fences, jumping is one of the key attributes you seek. Many horses with great engines never adapt to the bigger obstacles and have their chase careers curtailed early on. This is where Gods Own has a particular advantage. He is still qualified to run in novice chases this year, despite being one of last years eye-catching novice chasers, confused?
Gods Own won a very nice Punchestown novice Grade 1 back on the 1st May, delivering a beating to Moscow Mannon, Balder Success, Felix Younger and Champagne Fever. That was his first win over the larger obstacles but by no means his only piece of worthwhile form having finished second to Balder Success in the Pencil Novice Grade 2 in February.
The dates of the Irish season mean that he won his novice there in the UKs ‘last’ season (which closed about 14 hours prior to the tapes going up!). Thus, he remains a novice here but not in Ireland, where his Punchestown win came in the current campaign. That is quite an advantage the horse carries into this year for UK novice races.
Standing alone, I might have concluded that the Punchestown run was a touch flukey. He beat some good horses fair and square but at that stage of the year, some horses should be relaxing in the paddock not at the racetrack and you do get some odd results. Any of those thoughts were dismissed with his seasonal debut at Exeter.
That was in the highly challenging Haldon Gold Cup, Tom George was plunging him straight back into the thick of it – Earlier Gloucestershire local press quoted Tom as suggesting he would be targeted at an easier Wincanton race, the Future Stars and I took this re-routing to signal that the horse was showing even more at home.
At Exeter, he was opposing Somersby, Cue Card and Balder success again, all useful sorts and he beat them all staying on best at the end and handling the tricky fences and difficult stamina sapping Exeter undulating ground very well. He made one very bad error and still stayed on convincingly, which bodes well.
So here we have a novice who has great experience of fences already, yet remains qualified for all of the good novice chases until the end of April. What festival target might be on the cards? This is where the scene gets murky.
If God’s Own were bound for the Arkle, he is likely to face Vautour, one of the hottest prospects from Mullins. However, having not yet jumped a fence, we have to take that part of his game on trust. God’s Own is currently 12/1 for the 2m novice champion race. That seems a good price to me for a proven chaser (one G1 and one G2 in the bag), if I were confident that is where he would go.
A couple of firms have God’s Own in the JLT too, which makes sense, he looks a future stayer and so could easily line up here. He is 10/1 in this race with again, Vautour and The Tallow Tank being the two ahead of him in the market. Now, I cannot see Vautour lining up in the Arkle if he is any good over fences and so it might persuade Tom George to go for the JLT come March.
There might even be a temptation to run in the Champion Chase for which he is 20/1. That might sound ambitious but consider the race. Sire de Grugy is still in the market at 4/1 but I doubt he will run this season at all. Sprinter Sacre is 5/2 favourite but who knows what shape he will return in, I would also harbour those concerns of Simonsig who is favourite for the King George at 3m but then, if the market is to be believed, might step back to 2m for a Champion Chase? I cannot see it myself.
Champagne Fever is around 14/1 for the Champion Chase but for this classy looking horse, he might just be the one Mullins steps up to the Gold Cup. The Mullins yard had a sole Gold Cup representative last year, On His Own Although placing, On His Own did so in a messy race and I am not sure the yard want him as their Blue Riband hopeful.
What I am saying is that the Champion Chase might be completely turned on it’s head as a betting contest.
So what am I saying? Well I do not know. I do not want to play all three bets as Gods Own is only going to run in one of those races! Indeed, he may not run in any. Clearly the novice status gives him an excellent shot at the Arkle and JLT but with another good run, Tom George might start setting a loftier ambition. If Long Run could win a Gold Cup as a novice, Gods Own can win a Champion Chase as a super experienced one.
Right now, I am going to keep my Cheltenham powder dry and see where Gods Own turns up next. As well as feeling little equipped to pick out the target festival race for Gods Own; I am also tempered in my antipasto slip writing temptations by comments from the yard that he might fare better right-handed.
For now, I think I will simply bet him in each novice race he shows up in. If forced to commit, I would have a slice of that Champion Chase market which I think could come apart at the seams.