Now Comes The Chaos
‘Now comes the chaos’ blasted the front page headline as I walked into Dublin Airport on Monday morning to meet with colleagues and the team from Cheltenham for two days hunting.
No- not that sport so controversially outlawed in dear old Blighty- winner hunting.
A great day at Leopardstown, now Dublin’s only track had opened the trip- the ever helpful and great company that is Henry de Bromhead offering a fascinating insight- and an encouraging word about Identity Thief and Smashing, and Joseph O’Brien, a young man in a hurry up the training ladder talking impressively about Ivanovich wotsit- you know the thing that’s favourite for the JCB Triumph Hurdle.
But now its on to the serious business of trainers in their own yards and first stop the biggest – directions simple. Head to County Carlow, go past the Lord Bagenal Inn(Irish directions usually have such establishments in them) and right at the Cemetery.
Welcome to the Kingdom of Mullins, where an Armada that might even have had Drake stop bowls early is being assembled. It’s mission- to boldly go where no Irish invaders have gone before and beat the Brits at a sporting Festival like no other.
Welcome is the word- the rain follows rain and more rain- sanctuary is reached when Willie Mullins, handler of stars like Min,Douvan, Un de Sceaux, Vrrom Vrrom Mag, Annie Power and many many more names beside that have sent the bookies into meltdown before the first race is even run, kindly does the unthinkable and invite a dozen probing hacks into his living room, answers all their questions(well they thought he did!) while his wife, the blessed Jackie supervises tea for all while battling the flu.
We Brits respond to this generosity- not once did I hear the words ‘Rugby’ or ‘Twickenham’ mentioned, and it’s a similar story the next day when the venue is the yard of the rising star. Just nine years ago Gordon Elliott trained Silver Birch to win the National, which left him at that time, having trained more winners in Britain than his homeland. Watching top jockey Bryan Cooper school No More Heroes was a sight that had Cheltenham winner written all over it, while it also brought a chance to chat with an old friend. Jamie Codd is one of the good guys, one of the worlds top Amateurs and has 4 Cheltenham Festival winners- with a percentage winnings of zero! To hear him talk so enthusiastically about the four days we are about to receive leaves you in no doubt as to what Cheltenham means to everyone in these parts.
And then there’s Jack Kennedy, just 16 years young- already three times Pony Racing champion jockey looking forward to his first Cheltenham. He’s just one year older that the most senior horse set to run at the Festival- 15 year old Uncle Junior. He can’t wait either.
The Chaos proclaimed in the headline referred to a deadlocked General Election that has made what happened in the UK 6 years ago seem positively primary school.
For those who hoped it referred to the Irish raiding party being assembled for Cheltenham I have bad news- and worse. The chances of the veni vidi vici routine with a front three of Mullins, Elliott and de Bromhead are looking stronger and stronger. Chaos? What Chaos?
And I have the pleasure of returning to this great country next Monday to be a panellist, against 5 Irish folk all of outstanding racing pedigree at a Charity Preview Night in Clane, County Kildare.
I might then reveal which Irish trained horse no less a person than a Priest told me in Dublin on Sunday was a ‘handicap shoe in’
And even he was talking of coming to Cheltenham.
By Mike Vince