Min is now the 6/1 join-favourite (from 8s) with Paddy Power for the Ryanair Chase at the 2020 Cheltenham Festival after showing tremendous battling qualities to land the 2m Grade 1 John Durkan Chase at Punchestown for second time. The Willue Mullins trained eight-year-old was sent off the 8/11 favourite but gave his legion of supporters some mighty frights.
After racing keenly at the head of affairs under Paul Townend, Min made several bade mistakes and jumped far too big two from home. That saw Min get headed by Hardline, who then emerged from the pack to throw down a strong challenge, but he rallied ganley to lead at the last. The son of Walk In The Park then stayed on in dour fashion to prevail by just over two lengths, with Presenting Percy putting in eye-catching good late work to finish a further 3 1/4 lengths behind in third.
“I thought it was an unbelievable performance coming after three mistakes. I think he wanted to go faster, but it’s hard to judge what is happening in that wind.
“To come back from what I thought was certain defeat after the second last was very good. He picked up and threw a huge leap at the last and was going away after the last.
“I hadn’t thought beyond today and don’t have any plan for him. The jump at the last just shows what he had in the tank and that sealed it for him.
“I think he can jump way better than that and can improve from that run. He can go over two miles or two and a half.”
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Ryanair the obvious target
The Rich Ricci owned Min has twice finished runner-up at the Cheltenham Festival, being beaten seven lengths by Altior in the 2016 running of the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle before again finding that rival too strong two years later when beaten the same distance in the Queen Mother Champion Chase.
He has two possible targets at the 2020 Cheltenham Festival – the Queen Mother Champion Chase over 2m or the Ryanair Chase over four furlongs further. As stable companion Chacun Pour Soi, who is also owned by Ricci, heads the betting for the former the Ryanair looks the race to go for. At this stage of his career, Min doesn’t have the pace as far as I am concerned for the Queen Mother, whereas the 2m 4f trip of the Ryanair is ideal.
If, as hoped, the joint market leader Defi Du Seuil goes down the Queen Mother route then Min would be highly likely to go off much shorter and clear favourite come the day. Therefore, at the 6/1 currently on offer, he looks and each-way bet to nothing on my book.
Setback rules Douvan out of Christmas target
Mullins also confirmed that his highly-talented but fragile chase Douvan had suffered yet another setback. The nine year-old, an impressive winner of the 2016 Supreme Novices Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival and when following-up 12 months later in the Arkle, returned from nearly 600 days off the track to win the Clonmel Oil Chase in very impressive fashion last month.
He had appeared to set up a crack at a Paddy Power-sponsored two-mile Grade 1 contest at Leopardstown over Christmas, but his name did not appear among the entries last week. Speaking after Min’s success in the John Durkan, Mullins said Douvan would be spending Christmas on the sidelines.
“Douvan didn’t come out of his race well, but it’s not the problem he had before. It’s a back-end problem and he must have hit a fence in Clonmel.”
“He’s going to miss Christmas, but hopefully will be back after that.”
Al Boum Photo among stars in racecourse gallop
Closutton-based handler Mullins also sent some of his stable stars, including Kemboy, Al Boum Photo and Chacun Pour Soi, for a gallop after racing at Punchestown.
All three have intended targets over Christmas, with Kemboy – who has yet to see competitive action this season because of a dispute involving his owners – entered for the Savills Chase on December 28 in which he could clash with Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Al Boum Photo whom he defeated at the Punchestown Festival back in May.
Chacun Pour Soi was hugely impressive at the same meeting and now appears to be near the top of Mullins’ two-mile chasers and is currently 4/1 with William Hill for the Queen Mother Champion Chase at the 2020 Cheltenham Festival.
“Kemboy, Chacun Pour Soi, Al Boum Photo, Blazer and Cadmium all went a mile and a half after racing and I was very happy with them,” said Mullins.
“It was a nice pipe-opener and great to get them all a day out. All the jockeys were happy with them.
“Ruby (Walsh) was on Chacun Pour Soi, Paul (Townend) rode Al Boum Photo, Patrick (Mullins) was on Kemboy and Brain Hayes rode Cadmium.
“We’ll try to get some more quality work into them before Christmas. Kemboy looked big, but he probably is that way anyway.”
Kemboy has been unable to run following the suspension of entries for horses owned by the Supreme Horse Racing Club, which has now been deregistered by Horse Racing Ireland and new ownership syndicates approved.