BY his own admission, it has taken Andrew Mullen time to recover from the hip reconstruction surgery that he underwent a year ago immediately after landing the biggest win of his career when partnering the top-class Caspar Netscher to glory in Canada on his very first ride in North America.
However, the 31-year-old from Bedale has been more prolific of late and is hopeful that Poyle Vinnie can land today’s six-furlong Coral Sprint Trophy – the highlight at York’s concluding meeting of the year that will be remembered for Epsom Derby and Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe hero Golden Horn’s coming-of-age victory in May’s Dante Stakes and subsequent shock defeat in August’s Juddmonte International.
Trained by Mick Appleby, Poyle Vinnie heads to Knavesmire following a narrow second-placed finish in last month’s William Hill Ayr Gold Cup when an unfancied 50-1 outsider. Only the Richard Fahey-trained Don’t Touch, a highly-progressive three-year-old, was too good for Mullen’s mount in a race which has encapsulated his season. So near, so far...
“He will love the ground and has a good draw – there will be plenty of pace around us so hopefully we can get a good lead into the race,” Mullen told The Yorkshire Post. “It’s a very competitive race but six furlongs, and soft ground are his ideal conditions and he must have a massive chance.
“He was battling all the way to the line at Ayr, but the Fahey horse kept pulling out more which was slightly frustrating. I just hope the Ayr race hasn’t taken too much out of Poyle Vinnie – all year, he has never put two good races together. That is my only concern.”
One of the most consistent and respected Flat riders in the North, it was unfortunate timing that Mullen had to undergo the surgeon’s knife within 48 hours of landing the prestigious Group Two Nearctic Stakes at the Toronto track of Woodbine and then dashing back to Yorkshire to fulfil commitments at Pontefract on the eve of his operation.
After hitting his left hip on the metal frame of a starting stall, and then aggravating the injury through riding wear and tear, Mullen required extensive surgery to his cartilage and ligament to ease the pain and ensure that he could do justice to his horses. Despite resuming riding at the beginning of the year, he is only now feeling the benefits.
“It has taken a year for the hip to get back to its best,” said the jockey. “I kept going last year because I wanted to ride as many winners as possible, and I got straight back into it in January with some winners. I had a nice winner for David Simcock and thought I was up and running, but the opposite happened – all I could do was get rides off Mick. I changed my agent a couple of months ago – I joined Richard Hale – and it has made a big difference.”
Mullen is fulsome in his praise for the support offered by Poyle Vinne’s trainer.
“Mick just keeps it simple,” said the rider whose services are regularly used by Michael Dods whose Mecca’s Angel won the Group One Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes at York’s Ebor Festival..
“He’s a bit like Mark Johnston ... he likes his horses up there so there can be no excuses. He tries not to complicate things. I know what he wants,” said Mullen.
As for the future, Mullen hopes to build on recent momentum and ride on the all-weather through the winter before taking a break with his young family next February to recharge his batteries – and hip – ahead of the 2016 campaign.
He will do so buoyed, and inspired, by his idol Frankie Dettori rolling back the years on horse of the year Golden Horn who is now set to line up at America’s Breeders’ Cup meeting at the end of the month – the colt’s last race before being retired to stud – following his Arc heroics last weekend.
“Golden Horn is the standout horse of the year,” added Mullen. “I think he had his excuses at York in the Juddmonte, but he and Frankie stole the show at Longchamp last Sunday.
“I love watching him – he’s unreal. Frankie is very emotional. He and Ryan Moore are the best two riders. However, when Frankie has a machine under him, he’s an absolute genius and does the sport a lot of good.
“Some people think he’s too over the top, but I don’t. If you have a question on any horse, 98 per cent of the time he gives you not just an answer – but the right answer. He knows everything that’s going on. He’s a great fella.”
n Karl Burke’s Quiet Reflection had too much speed for her rivals when blasting to a first Pattern success in the Dubai Cornwallis Stakes at Newmarket.
Having landed the Listed Harry Roseberry Stakes at Ayr on her previous start, when returning to five furlongs, the two-year-old successfully took the next step up the ladder in claiming the Group Three prize under North Yorkshire-based Graham Lee.
Next year’s Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot is the long-term target. Part-owner Niall O’Brien, who runs syndicate Ontoawinner, said: “We picked her up for £44,000 which is plenty for us, but she looks a cheap filly now. There is nothing else around for the rest of the year and we don’t want to over-race her.”