The Dublin Racing Festival was a brilliant two days of action and I was over the moon with The Storyteller in the Irish Gold Cup. He ran a massive race in second and he has been an amazing horse for me this year.
I was happy at every juncture in the race and his jumping was brilliant again. Kemboy was a deserved winner of course, but I just wish something had taken him on a bit earlier as when we were trying to get to him he had probably filled up his lungs again. That's always the case after going close like that in a big race though, you always think of what could have been.
Regardless of anything else, it was a huge effort to finish second and as I said in this column last week I thought he would out-run his odds and he did. The Storyteller is a legend in that he just always runs his race and it's just incredible that he is improving at his age!
The Storyteller has given me a great year as this season we've now won two major handicaps at Galway, a Grade Two over fences at Punchestown, the Grade One up at Down Royal and now we've been second together in the Irish Gold Cup. He was also second under Denis O'Regan in the Christmas Hurdle, he's had some season!
Of the Irish Gold Cup itself, Kemboy has to prove that he handles Prestbury Park to be a factor in the Cheltenham equivalent, and those that finished behind us have a lot of improving to do!
As I've said before I'd love for us to have a go in the Gold Cup as I think the extra two furlongs will really bring out the best in him, but he's only entered in the Stayers Hurdle and that looks to be his next target. I've never ridden in a Gold Cup, but I think he could be suited to that test, but Gordon usually knows best though so I've no doubt his decision will be the right one as it usually is!
In my column a few weeks ago I said that the two horses I fancy for the Stayers Hurdle are Ronald Pump and The Storyteller, and I would love to be on either of them at the festival. Both have massive chances.
🥊 It's more @WillieMullinsNH magic— Racing TV (@RacingTV) February 7, 2021
👏 An eighth winner at the #DublinRacingFestival for the Closutton maestro as Kemboy makes all to win the €200,000 @paddypower Irish Gold Cup under @dan2231 at @LeopardstownRC pic.twitter.com/YfMmT6NpQK
Elsewhere at the weekend, Quilixios was brilliant and I was surprised at the lack of fuss about him. Everyone seems to have just decided that Zanahiyr is definitely better than Quilixios, but I'm not so sure. Quilixios showed that he has speed, stays and his jumping was great - I was very impressed by him.
I've said on this column a few times that I didn't think there was all that much between the two of them based on their work at home, and I still don't, especially after that performance. I wouldn't mind riding him at the festival, that's for sure!
Honeysuckle was faultless in the Irish Champion Hurdle and I'm really looking forward to seeing her at Cheltenham. That was her best performance, and I just don't think any horse in behind could go with her!
Abacadabras ran a big race and we were delighted with him, but can he improve enough to get to her? We know he goes well at Cheltenham, we know he'll improve for a better pace and better ground, but it's still hard to see him improving enough to get past Honeysuckle. He will improve though with the right conditions so I wouldn't turn anyone off him at each way odds.
Willie Mullins had a fantastic weekend as we all know and his Grade One winners were all impressive, but I was blown away by Monkfish.
He just destroyed that field, which was full of very talented horses and he made it look easy. His jumping is perfect, he's very straight forward and he has now shown he definitely has plenty of gears. He is just a monster of a horse.
🐠 Monkfish - what an incredible talent— Racing TV (@RacingTV) February 7, 2021
🏇 Eight races
🥇 Six wins
🏆 Three-time Grade One hero
✅ Unbeaten over fences
The brilliant Monkfish tastes more Grade One glory for @WillieMullinsNH & @PTownend in the Flogas Novice Chase at @LeopardstownRC #DublinRacingFestival pic.twitter.com/AqMwhOS6Sy
Going into the weekend I'd never have even entertained the thought that there was a horse in training as good as Envoi Allen, but I might have to re-think that now. Hopefully, they clash next year as that would be an amazing race. We are very lucky to have two special ones like them in Ireland and we could be in store for some brilliant battles for years to come.
Both horses are excellent jumpers, very straight-forward and the sky is the limit for both of them!
Another thing worth noting is how well Paul Townend is riding currently. I know he's on the best horses, but that brings its own pressure with it and he handles it so well. He rode every horse brilliantly last weekend, and he has taken over that role so effortlessly. He's on the good horses so he maybe won't get as much praise as he deserves at times, but he's a man on fire at the moment.
For this week's Cheltenham preview I said I'd take a look at the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Ryanair, and it's probably no surprise I've landed on two Willie Mullins horses.
For the Ryanair I would still definitely have Min on side. I know he disappointed at Leopardstown, but he just wants further these days and Patrick Mullins did the right thing in looking after him. A tough, experienced horse like him will be absolutely fine after that and it wouldn't put me off him at all. Horses tend to get a bit slower with age and I just think it was a bit of an off day as well.
Of the others, I haven't been impressed with Allaho this season, Imperial Aura and Saint Calvados come into this off falls and I'm not sure if any of these are up to a horse of Min's standard anyway.
The likes of Melon and Fakir Doudairies could easily be put forward as each way shouts as both have strong claims. Melon sulked a bit in all truth in the Irish Gold Cup and he just needs to be ridden forward, and Fakir D'oudairies ran huge in the Dublin Chase behind Chacun Pour Soi. I wouldn't be turning anyone off either of them, but Min just carries such strong form and if you are willing to forgive one bad run he's probably a good price at 7/1.
Samcro should end up here, but he needs to come right back to himself quickly as he has not shown any form this season, and he really disappointed me when I rode him at Christmas. He needs a miracle, but the team did it last year and when you are dealing with a genius like Gordon Elliott you can never write him off. Saying that though, Min was very good in last year's race and I think he'll do it again.
🥇 Six-time G1 winner— Racing TV (@RacingTV) March 12, 2020
🥈 Six-time G1 runner-up
Class act - Min is the one in the Ryanair Chase! @PTownend @WillieMullinsNH #CheltenhamFestival pic.twitter.com/hpO7AAnCB8
The Gold Cup is very easy in my opinion, Al Boum Photo just wins it. Willie Mullins showed at the weekend how much improvement he gets out of every horse and I've no doubt this lad will be flying at the festival.
Of course the likes of A Plus Tard and Champ (if he gets a run) are interesting, but there is nothing in there in my opinion to stop the three in a row. This looks the easiest renewal yet for Al Boum Photo unless something comes out of the woodwork!