Mulholland enjoys thrill of Chase up Cheltenham hill

Ambitious young trainer is looking forward to a tilt at the Gold Cup next week with his course specialist

His trainer remains younger than several jockeys in the race. Barely three years ago, in fact, Neil Mulholland was still riding against them. The horse himself, meanwhile, was beaten out of sight in his first steeplechase last season. Yet not even those saddling three previous winners in the Totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup on Friday week will be remotely complacent, should Midnight Chase be on the premises as they begin that final, searing climb to the post. As Mulholland says: "If he's still there at the bottom of the hill, he won't be far away at the top."

Anywhere else, even his astounding recent improvement would surely leave Midnight Chase too much to find. As it is, his masochistic relish for this pitiless hill means that nobody can discount him. Placed at 100-1 over hurdles at his first Festival, Midnight Chase has come bounding home first at Cheltenham four times inside the past year, in the process soaring 38lb up the handicap. On the latest occasion, moreover, he had been down on his knees three out.

"He'd cut into himself, pulled a shoe off, and was more or less galloping in bare feet," Mulholland recalled yesterday. "The other horse had got away on a roll, with 17lb less on his back. It was a fair performance, to catch him up that hill. But he had been on the bridle going to the fence, and Dougie [Costello, his jockey] says he always finds an extra gear for that hill. And he showed he doesn't have to be blistering away in front, as people thought. The handicapper thinks we can finish fourth. And if we could do that – well, there's still huge prize-money, and we'd still be in the winner's enclosure after the Gold Cup. For a small yard like ours, in our third season, that would be unbelievable."

It should not need Midnight Chase to testify that the yard in question, which shares facilities with its landlords, the Pipe family, is supervised by a young trainer going places. Back in the autumn, for instance, Mulholland placed one of his lesser horses for three wins and a second inside 11 days. At 30, he could easily be still smashing himself to pieces on the periphery of his first vocation – still resenting all the broken bones that had intruded since he finished runner-up in the conditional jockeys' championship, back in Ireland.

"But that wasn't ever going to happen," he said. "I knew there was no point carrying on riding 15 winners a year. By the time you take away tax, valet fees, diesel and all the rest of it, you're left with nothing – with 15 pats on the back. I'm too competitive to put up with that. Remember, too, I'd had two operations on each leg; both my collarbones had been pinned and plated."

Even in his Co Antrim boyhood, Mulholland would go straight from the school bus to canter a point-to-pointer through the dusk. "I'd drop the horse off with the trainer a week before the race," he said. "He was no good, just a fun horse. But I got him to the track, and I wasn't 15."

By the same token, his apprenticeship under Aidan O'Brien was always as attuned to the example of the boss himself, as to that of Charlie Swan. Sure enough, Mulholland mustered 17 winners when first offered a salaried position in Dorset; 19 in his second season; and has already reached 20 in his first from this new base, in Somerset. "We've a lot of average horses here, a lot of babies too," Mulholland said. "Out of 45, we'd only have about 20 to run. But we're having a lot of fun. John Francome was here the other day and couldn't believe how happy the horses seemed. We don't have expensive horses. But even a bad one – so long as it's fit and healthy and can jump – is going to run well in the worst races. All we can do is hope that people notice those, and help us go up a division or two. And at least we can do battle with the big boys, even if we've only got one horse to take them on."

One horse is all it takes to win a Gold Cup, of course. And Mulholland is infectiously pleased by Midnight Chase's preparations. "He'll never look like a greyhound, because he's so laid-back and eats so well," he said. "But he is as fit and as fresh as he's ever been, and I'm very happy with his frame of mind. He loves the course, and the ground is drying out in his favour. Obviously, we're underdog. I've never once said we're going to win. But none of us – none of us – knows how good he is yet."

Turf Account

Nap

Willie Hall (3.50 Newcastle)

Good second on his handicap debut and now returns to the scene of his bumper success.



Next best

Beamazed (4.50 Newcastle)

Had things sewn up a long way out last time and can cope with a shorter trip here.



One to watch

E Street Boy (David Pipe) is bred to enjoy longer trips and kept on late when fourth in a handicap hurdle at Taunton last week.



Where the money's going

A Tote Jackpot rollover of £989,008 could double at Exeter today.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in the win over QPR
footballInternet reacts to miss shocker for Liverpool striker
Voices
Sol Campbell near his home in Chelsea
voices
News
Kimi the fox cub
newsBurberry under fire from animal rights group - and their star, Kimi
Arts and Entertainment
Ella Henderson's first studio album has gone straight to the top of the charts
music
News
<p>Jonathan Ross</p>
<p>Jonathan Ross (or Wossy, as he’s affectionately known) has been on television and radio for an extraordinarily long time, working on a seat in the pantheon of British presenters. Hosting Friday Night with Jonathan Ross for nine years, Ross has been in everything from the video game Fable to Phineas and Ferb. So it’s probably not so surprising that Ross studied at Southampton College of Art (since rebranded Southampton Solent), a university known nowadays for its media production courses.</p>
<p>However, after leaving Solent, Ross studied History at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, now part of the UCL, a move that was somewhat out of keeping with the rest of his career. Ross was made a fellow of the school in 2006 in recognition of his services to broadcasting.</p>
TV

Rumours that the star wants to move on to pastures new

Life and Style
fashion
News
Paul Nuttall, left, is seen as one of Ukip's key weapons in selling the party to the North of England
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Russell Brand labelled 'left-wing commie scum' by Fox News
TV
Arts and Entertainment
BBC's Antiques Roadshow uncovers a TIE fighter pilot helmet from the 1977 Star Wars film, valuing it at £50,000
TV

TV presenter Fiona Bruce seemed a bit startled by the find during the filming of Antiques Roadshow

News
people

Comedian says he 'never laughed as hard as I have writing with Rik'

Sport
Steven Caulker of QPR scores an own goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Queens Park Rangers and Liverpool
football
Arts and Entertainment
artKaren Wright tours the fair and wishes she had £11m to spare
News
i100
Life and Style
Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh been invited to take part in Women Fashion Power, a new exhibition that celebrates the way women's fashion has changed in relation to their growing power and equality over the past 150 years
fashionKirsty and Camila swap secrets about how to dress for success
Arts and Entertainment
Joy Division photographed around Waterloo Road, Stockport, near Strawberry Studios. The band are Bernard Sumner (guitar and keyboards), Stephen Morris (drums and percussion), Ian Curtis (vocals and occasional guitar), Peter Hook (bass guitar and backing vocals).
booksNew book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Operational Risk Manager - Asset Management

£60,000 - £80,000: Saxton Leigh: Our client is an leading Asset Manager based...

Year 5/6 Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Sheffield: Permanent Year 6 TeacherThe job:This...

KS1 & KS2 Teachers

Negotiable: Randstad Education Sheffield: KS1+KS2 Teachers required ASAP for l...

Year 2 Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Sheffield: Year 2 Teacher The position is to wo...

Day In a Page

Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

Terry Venables column

Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

Michael Calvin's Inside Word

Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past