Willie Mullins has revealed that one of his stable stars, Yorkhill, could revert back to hurdles after he threw away victory in the G1 Ryanair Gold Cup at Fairyhouse on Easter Sunday.
Under Ruby Walsh, the seven-year-old son of Presenting took the lead at the fourth fence in the two mile and four furlong contest but continually jumped out to his left, not costing him many lengths in the grand scheme of things, but essentially meaning he was expending far too much energy in comparison to his rivals.
Andrea and Graham Wylie’s chestnut gelding won at Cheltenham in the G1 JLT Novices’ Chase in March and was helped by the left-handed track that day.
However, at Fairyhouse, he jumped well but the right-handed track did him no favours. Despite this, Yorkhill remained in front but clambered over the final fence, handing the initiative to eventual winner Road To Respect, who fended off Mullins’ admirable charge who rallied once again when headed and finished just a neck behind the winner in a thrilling race.
Mullins sounded keen immediately after the race to suggest a tilt over hurdles would be on the gelding’s agenda next term.
He told At The Races:
To see him come back (from jumping left) and look like he had the race in safe-keeping, you just never know do you?
He looks like either a Champion Hurdle horse or Gold Cup horse, he’s got huge ability and at home he seems to jump straight enough. He’s always done this, it’s not something he’s picked up – I think before we bought him he ran out in his point-to-point.
You’d think a horse would get better with age, but over fences it seems to bring it out more in him. Whether he should go back to hurdles, he might be easier to ride over hurdles and it might be a lot easier on jockeys.
We’ll see, I’d say that’s it probably for the season anyhow, I don’t think I’d ask him to run again. We’ll decide over the summer. It (hurdling) is always something I wanted to do anyhow, it’s just the way this year worked out. I went chasing and I think he has a real ability over hurdles.
Analysis by Danny Archer
This was a spellbinding performance from the quirky yet obviously extremely talented Yorkhill. The right-handed track was a massive question mark before the race and so it proved in the race itself. Mullins’ charge jumped superbly but expended so much energy continually jumping to his left and it was a credit to the horse that he was able to finish as close as he did.
The Champion Hurdle round Cheltenham might just be his race. I was at Cheltenham after his JLT victory and connections could not stop talking about him as a Gold Cup horse after that race. However, Mullins sounded pretty keen to shelve those plans after this run and you would have to think, given his natural pace and obvious talent, that he would figure prominently in a Champion Hurdle if connections decided to go down that route with what looks one of the best if not quirkiest horses in training.