WITH Ruby Walsh being sighted less frequently on the course this season trainer Willie Mullins is increasingly looking to his other riders to pick up the slack.
Chief among them is former champion jockey Paul Townend, who produced an excellent ride last weekend to stun Faugheen and win the Morgiana Hurdle on Sharjah at Punchestown.We caught up with Townend to talk about last weekend, get his views on the Troytown Chase at Navan and get an update on some of the other Mullins stars.
Can we start with last week and talk about the Morgiana Hurdle – was Sharjah’s victory over Faugheen as much of a shock for you as it was for everyone else?
It was a surprise to all of us, there’s no other way to say about it. He was a good novice and a Galway Hurdle winner in the summer and he put a bad run behind him in the north. He’s always had a lot of ability, but we can’t pretend that we thought he would get the better of Faugheen.
Given that, would you say Sharjah has had his moment in the sun or is there more to come?
He’s a talented horse and put his best foot forward at Punchestown, so you have to credit him for that. I can’t see why he can’t keep running well in races like that. He deserves to line up in a few more of them now. Time will tell who good he is.
What did you make of Faugheen’s performance?
It would be a bit unfair to write him off after one run given that it was also his first run of the season. I’m sure he’s got a helluva lot more to give for the rest of the season, particularly over further. He’s come back before and proven people wrong.
Voix Du Reve was an impressive winner last weekend too. How good do you think he is?
He’s two from two over fences now and I’ve been impressed with him. I’m not sure there was a lot of strength in depth last weekend and I guess we’ll see about that in time. He’s doing nothing but the right thing over fences and he ran to a good level over hurdles too. Yet fences seem to be bringing out the best in him so it’ll be interesting to see how far he can go. I like him a lot.
You steered Total Recall to victory in the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury last season. Is that the aim for Clonmel Oil Chase winner Kemboy?
I believe so, that’s the way Willie looks to be leaning. I was really impressed by what he did in Clonmel and built on everything he did last year. He was the one horse in the race that was really open to improvement and it was impressive from that point of view, especially as he was a bit fresh to begin with. The ones behind are fairly well exposed but he still ran very well.
Sadly we aren’t seeing Laurina in the Coral Hurdle this weekend. What do you think of her?
She’s a very exciting mare. She looked very good last year and while she’ll have to step up on that we’d be hoping she can. She brushed aside everything she took on last year. She could be very special.
You are riding Rogue Angel is Sunday’s Troytown Chase at Navan. How do you think he will get on?
It’s a great ride to pick up and it’s going to be a competitive race, as always. He ran a good race in the Cork National last time and has a lot of form in races like this. I hope he can put his best foot forward.
Footpad fluffed his lines when he unseated on his return. Does everyone at home retain faith in him?
He didn’t perform as we thought he might when he tipped up in Naas. It’s a bit like what we said with Faugheen earlier in that it’s unjust to write him off after one run. On what he did last season he’s a hugely exciting horse. I was lucky enough to ride him a couple of times last season and I was really impressed with him. At Cheltenham he was remarkable in the way he travelled strongly behind such a strong pace. You have to give him the benefit of the doubt.
Looking ahead to next week, Un De Sceaux is back for the Tingle Creek at Sandown. How are things with him?
He comes back year after year and wears his heart on his sleeve every single time. The girl who rides him out every day is happy with him which is what we like to hear as she won’t let anyone else near him; he’s her baby.
And, finally, what is it about Un De Sceaux that you think draws people to him?
He’s a flagbearer for the yard and I think he’s captured everyone’s imagination with the way he goes out there and does it each time. He’s an iron horse.