FAR from content with dominating the jumps scene in Britain and Ireland, trainer Willie Mullins has plundered plenty of big prizes on the Flat with his team of stars.
These include the Ebor, which he won in 2009, and many others including at Royal Ascot and last year’s Irish St Leger at the Curragh.
Mullins took a few moments to talk to us about his Ebor contender for this year, his plans to target big contests in Australia and a couple of his big names for the winter.
Ivan Grozny represents you in the Ebor at York. How are things with him?
He was favourite for the race last year but couldn’t run because he was lame, which was a great shame. He’s not had an ideal preparation going into the race this time around either. He was in good form before going to Galway before being brought down at the first in the Galway Hurdle, so we decided to have a crack at this race instead.
Are there any concerns coming into this race off the back of that Galway run?
No concern at all. He was working well before that and he’s been fine since. It’s difficult to get horses high enough in the handicap to have a chance to go for races like this, so we thought we’d give it a shot. All the rain will have been a help to him.
Champion jockey Jim Crowley rides. How did you secure his services?
We’re delighted to have Jim Crowley riding. His agent rang us up to ask for the ride so we were happy enough to use him in the race. We’re happy enough with the draw in 11 too.
You’ve won the race before with Sesenta. What does it take to win the Ebor?
You need a horse that’s well handicapped and a horse that’s improving. Ivan Grozny was improving this time last year but I’m not sure it’s the same this time around. You’d want him to be showing a bit more form coming into the race but circumstances have gone against him.
Do you particularly enjoy targeting these big Flat meetings?
Absolutely. It’s good to have horses that can compete at the big festivals whether they’re on the Flat or over jumps. You want to be placing your horses to perform and to be at their best at those meetings, as winning there is what you want to be doing.
You appear to have started targeting races in Australia. Is that something that could become more regular for you?
Yes. The type of horse we have seems to suit Australian racing and the Melbourne Cup in particular. There’s a lack of stayers on that side of the world and we’re lucky enough to have them. Riven Light could improve enough to go out for the Cox Plate, Wicklow Brave ran well enough in the Goodwood Cup and if he goes out there he may drop back to a mile and a half. Thomas Hobson would be an ideal candidate for the Melbourne Cup if he performs well.
Quickly looking ahead to the jumps, how are things with Yorkhill?
He’s back in looking big and strong after his summer at grass. I’m very pleased with him but we’ve not made any decision about what path we’re going to take with him this season.
And, finally, can we grab a quick update on Faugheen and Douvan?
Both are in and are in great shape. Faugheen was doing fast work before he went out for the summer. He only had a short break so he’s still in good order. Douvan has recovered well and is just doing normal exercise along with the others. We’re looking forward to the years ahead with them.