Willie Mullins could embellish an already impressive record in the Grade 2 RED MILLS Chase as he looks to Saturday’s RED MILLS Day feature at Gowran Park to unveil a potential Ryanair Chase super sub for the stricken Allaho. Haut En Couleurs, Capodanno and Janidil form a potential strike force to rack up a seventh success in the RED MILLS Chase and book a place on the boat to Cheltenham with two-time Allaho recuperating from a life-threatening abdomen bleed.
They are part of a possible field of seven that includes the Mouse Morris-trained French Dynamite and Gordon Elliott’s Battleoverdoyen.
Minella Drama could be a very rare cross-channel runner in the race, the Donald McCain-conditioned eight-year-old having built on some good runs against graded company by winning easily in a handicap chase at Musselburgh on New Year’s Day.
Darasso completes the septet but the versatile Joseph O’Brien-trained is also one of seven entries for the Grade 3 Red Mills Trial Hurdle, which he won in 2019. Seven of the ten-year-old’s dozen successes have come over the smaller obstacles and if he takes on this challenge, he would face some elite opposition, headed by six-time Grade 1 winner Sharjah.
Gordon Elliott could go with the progressive Doctor Bravo but Fil Dor is an interesting contender for the same Elliott/Caldwell Construction combo, having been novice chasing this term. Jimli’s Glory (Keith Watson), Takarengo (Tom Mullins) and Da Capo Glory (Pádraig Butler) complete the list.
While a decision on Sharjah’s participation will not be made until the end of the week, Mullins will certainly have at least one representative in the RED MILLS Chase. Haut En Couleurs finished a close third in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle on his first appearance under Mullins’s care in 2021, having been bought after winning a three-year-old hurdle in Auteuil the previous October.
While he has yet to deliver on his potential over fences, having beaten stablemate and subsequent dual Grade 1-winning chaser Gentleman De Mee easily on debut over the larger obstacles, he looked to be putting it all together when buckling at the back of the last with a two-length lead over four-time Grade 1 winner and new Ryanair Chase favourite, Fakir D’Oudairies last month.
Janidil and Capodanno have not been seen since the season-ending Punchestown Festival last term, where the latter bagged a Grade 1 prize, and Mullins will be anxious to get a run into them if they are to form part of his battalion for the spring festivals.
“They might take their chance,” said Mullins. “It’ll be a good trial for Cheltenham. They’re sort of Ryanair horses so it’ll be interesting to see how they go in the RED MILLS Chase.
“It’s a great opportunity for them with Allaho out and will answer a lot of questions for us.”
Mullins may train inside the Carlow border at Closutton but Gowran is his local track and he is, of course, a Kilkenny native. The champion trainer has always supported the venue with top-class performers and has six triumphs each in the RED MILLS Chase and RED MILLS Trial Hurdle.
The Jason Titley-ridden Micko’s Dream provided him with his first Red Mills Chase victory in 2000 and he completed a memorable double as Balla Sola scored in the Hurdle under Conor O’Dwyer.
Meanwhile, Cilaos Emery is Mullins’s most recent Hurdle victor in 2020 while the Gowran Galactico saddled Melon to land the Chase last year, Paul Townend doing the steering on both those occasions.
“The RED MILLS day is a great day locally, when you get all the local farmers, you get all the local people who use all the excellent RED MILLS products, from cat food, dog food and horse food. RED MILLS horse nuts are a mainstay of our yard and always have been.”
Local rider, Danny Mullins will most likely get the call-up if his uncle opts to run more than one in the RED MILLS Chase and few jockeys are in better form at present, the red-hot pilot bagging three Grade 1s at the Dublin Racing Festival.
He would like nothing better than to deliver in two races with a rich tradition as well as family history, his father Tony having trained 2004 RED MILLS Chase winner Barrow Drive.
“I’m riding a lot of good horses and when you’re going to those big meetings, Paul is probably on the one where the most expectation is, but riding for Willie, those second, third and fourth strings can all pop up and win,” Danny noted.
Gowran Park is likely to continue the trend of great atmospheres and big crowds through the past few months and with RED MILLS underwriting the cost of entry on Saturday, more of the same can be expected Noreside.
“You look back at lockdown times when we were riding with no crowds. That can be very disheartening for owners who are paying for horses and they’re not getting to go there and enjoy it.
“Now the crowds are back, they seem to be bigger and better than ever and if you’re at the races with a group of friends, you can’t help but think how much fun that would be to be involved in a horse, to have a go.
“You’re seeing more and more syndicates getting very good horses competing in all the good races. People are enjoying themselves. Racing is a sport but it’s also entertainment as well. There’s both sides of it and to be a part of Irish racing at the moment is fantastic, it’s in such a strong position.”
Champagne Fever, Monalee, Our Duke, Rathgar Beau, Forget The Past, Watson Lake, Rubi Light and Chris’s Dream are among the high-class winners of the Red Mills Chase while Hardy Eustace, Solwhit, Un De Sceaux, Danoli, Macs Joy, Youllneverwalkalone and last year’s victor Teahupoo are part of a stellar roll of honour for the Red Mills Trial Hurdle.
“The RED MILLS Hurdle is a race over the intermediate distance so they all get a chance,” Mullins Jnr stated. “You’ve Champion Hurdle winners and horses that will be looking at the Stayers’ Hurdle.
“Also, the RED MILLS Chase has been very informative with plenty of good horses going on for the Gold Cup and possibly a prep for a Grand National as well.
“You’re going to go to Gowran and see a lot of good horses. Willie is no stranger to producing some of his Grade 1 horses there and it should be a great day out again.”