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.

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballStriker in talks over £17m move from Manchester United
Sport
Radamel Falcao
footballManchester United agree loan deal for Monaco striker Falcao
Sport
Louis van Gaal, Radamel Falcao, Arturo Vidal, Mats Hummels and Javier Hernandez
footballFalcao, Hernandez, Welbeck and every deal live as it happens
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
News
i100
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
Life and Style
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside
lifeDavid Sedaris: What I learnt from my fitness tracker about the world
Arts and Entertainment
Word master: Self holds up a copy of his novel ‘Umbrella’
boksUnlike 'talented mediocrity' George Orwell, you must approach this writer dictionary in hand
News
i100
Life and Style
tech

Apple agrees deal with Visa on contactless payments

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

SQL Technical Implementation Consultant (Java, BA, Oracle, VBA)

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: SQL Technical ...

Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, Fidessa, Equities)

£85000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, ...

Lead C# Developer (.Net, nHibernate, MVC, SQL) Surrey

£55000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Lead C# Develo...

Technical Software Consultant (Excel, VBA, SQL, JAVA, Oracle)

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: You will not be expected to hav...

Day In a Page

Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor