Mullins displays strength in depth

Trainer hopes young horses can add to already impressive Festival haul

As the setting for a spring carnival, this place has had to deal with some awkward incongruities over recent days. The going has been borrowed from midwinter, and the Stygian economic ambience reflected in diminished crowds and betting turnover. Fortunately, however, the horses themselves have managed to nourish an exemplary spirit of renaissance.

On the first two days of the Festival, Hurricane Fly and Dunguib successively intimated a changing of the guard in the jumping elite. And that theme is elaborated today when Willie Mullins, trainer of Hurricane Fly, again measures an unprecedented strength in depth among the younger horses in his care.

Hurricane Fly himself missed Cheltenham but Mullins still managed to win novice championships there over both hurdles and fences. His stable has proved even more formidable on home soil. Four more prizes yesterday, including both Grade Ones, took its score for the meeting to eight, while the big races today also seem feasibly within its reach.

Indeed, Mullins has so many emerging talents that he is obliged to run two of the best, Mikael D'Haguenet and Cousin Vinny, against each other in the Land Rover Champion Novice Hurdle. Cousin Vinny was one of the yard's few disappointments at Cheltenham, apparently unsettled by his journey, but had previously been considered as a potential match for Hurricane Fly. Mikael D'Haguenet, in contrast, was viewed as something of a mud-wrestler before showing quality on better ground at Cheltenham. Certainly, he seems the more obvious choice today, with Cousin Vinny having never previously tried this distance.

It already seems difficult to envisage the best of the present hurdlers resisting the next generation, but Punjabi has the chance to demand renewed respect in the Rabobank Champion Hurdle. After all, he has won Grade One races on both his previous visits here, and reached a startling new peak at Cheltenham. But his hold on the crown none the less seems precarious, with the going more likely to suit a pair of menacing improvers in Solwhit and Mullins's brilliant mare, Quevega.

Solwhit has come a long way very quickly, having won his first race over hurdles at this meeting last year and beaten Fiveforthree himself at Aintree last time. But he has not had long to get over a hard race that day, while the close third, United, had previously been annihilated by Quevega at Cheltenham. Quevega can make her stamina and mares' allowance count.

Mullins is finishing the campaign with all the momentum that has sustained his march to the trainers' championship here, and already he has much to anticipate next winter. Certainly there will be few novice chasers around as exciting as Fiveforthree, who outclassed his rivals for the Ladbrokes World Series Hurdle. Ridden more patiently than at Aintree by Ruby Walsh, the grey closed easily from the rear before galloping seven lengths clear of Pettifour. It is easy to envisage him leading the next wave, behind Cooldine, as Mullins plots the downfall of Kauto Star and Denman.

"Considering that was only his fifth run over hurdles, he really could be anything," Mullins said. "He's a lovely prospect for fences next season, though after such a light campaign I might first take him to the French Champion Hurdle in June."

Fiveforthree had won over hurdles at Cheltenham, in his novice season, but did not resurface until February. "He just had niggly little problems," Mullins explained. "This time last year I didn't think he could grow into the size of horse he is now, so perhaps it was all part and parcel of maturing."

Walsh chose to ride Deutschland in the Cathal Ryan Memorial Novice Chase, and duly found himself watching David Casey win on the stable's other runner, Barker. Barker was switched by his owner to Mullins in midwinter and the dividends have been remarkable. He has now been beaten only by Aran Concerto – at Fairyhouse – in four starts since, here bounding home by 15 lengths after Forpadydeplasterer erred at the last. "His jumping is spectacular, and took him into the race," Mullins observed. "He's an improving horse." The idea did not come across as a novelty.

Chris McGrath

Nap: Scene Two (5.35 Lingfield)

NB: Euston Square (1.40 Lingfield)

News
The guide, since withdrawn, used illustrations and text to help people understand the court process (Getty)
newsMinistry of Justice gets law 'terribly wrong' in its guide to courts
News
Bobbi Kristina Brown with her mother Whitney Houston in 2011
people
News
Starting the day with a three-egg omelette could make people more charitable, according to new research
scienceFeed someone a big omelette, and they may give twice as much, thanks to a compound in the eggs
News
Top Gun actor Val Kilmer lost his small claims court battle in Van Nuys with the landlord of his Malibu mansion to get back his deposit after wallpapering over the kitchen cabinets
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
The actress Geraldine McEwan was perhaps best known for playing Agatha Christie's detective, Miss Marple (Rex)
peopleShe won a Bafta in 1991 for her role in Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit
News
newsPatrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
News
Robert Fraser, aka Groovy Bob
peopleA new show honours Robert Fraser, one of the era's forgotten players
Life and Style
Torsten Sherwood's Noook is a simple construction toy for creating mini-architecture
tech
Sport
David Silva celebrates with Sergio Aguero after equalising against Chelsea
footballChelsea 1 Manchester City 1
News
i100
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

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Recruitment Genius: General Factory Operatives

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links