WILLIE MULLINS is used to monopolising Britain’s biggest National Hunt races; only the Cheltenham Gold Cup has eluded Ireland’s multiple champion trainer.
But he is not averse to running many of his best dual purpose horses in long distance Flat races – he has so many at his disposal – and today’s Yorkshire Cup is no exception.
Mullins saddles both Max Dynamite and Wicklow Brave in this one-and-three-quarter mile stamina test that sees local hopes rest with Peter Niven’s Clever Cookie.
Mullins won the 2009 Ebor, York’s flagship race, with Sesenta and Max Dynamite has winning York form in the bank having won the 2015 Lonsdale Cup under Frankie Dettori.
Today Ryan Moore takes over in the saddle in a horse owned by Rich Ricci whose colours have been carried with distinction by Champion Hurdlers like Faugheen and Annie Power.
After his Lonsdale Cup win, Max Dynamite went on to finish a half-length second in the Melbourne Cup later that year and was placed in the Flemington showpiece again last November, this time coming home in third.
Since finishing sixth in the Hong Kong Vase the following month the horse tried to make the most of a seemingly favourable mark over hurdles.
However, he was well-beaten in the Coral Cup at Cheltenham and at Punchestown three weeks ago.
“Max Dynamite has been a bit disappointing over hurdles, but he’s probably just not in love with them and he also wants proper fast ground,” said the trainer’s son, and assistant, Patrick, who is encouraged by this week’s drying conditions on Knavesmire.
“It looks like conditions at York will play to his strengths and hopefully he’ll bounce back to form.”
Meanwhile, Andrea Atzeni rides Wicklow Brave – the 2016 Irish St Leger winner also changes codes after finishing second to Supasundae when defending his crown in the Punchestown Champion Hurdle.
“Wicklow Brave ran a blinder in Punchestown. The ground on the Friday was probably as soft as it was all week and he’s another that wants better ground to be seen at his best,” added Mullins junior. “With Wicklow a lot depends what side of the bed he gets out of. He’s not getting any younger, but he retains plenty of ability and hopefully he’ll continue to pay his way.”
Last year’s Goodwood Cup winner Stradivarius is the likely favourite for trainer John Gosden and the aforementioned Dettori.
Not only did he lower the colours of Gold Cup hero Big Orange last term, but the four-year-old was also a highly-creditable third in both the St Leger and the British Champions Long Distance Cup.
Dartmouth carried the colours of the Queen to victory in last year’s Yorkshire Cup and the royal silks will this time be sported by the William Haggas-trained Call To Mind.
The Galileo colt needs to raise his game after finishing fourth on his seasonal bow at Newbury.
Haggas said: “He’s in great shape, I’m really pleased with him. He’s come out of the race at Newbury really well and I hope he can run well. He needs racing now and he needs a trip, too.”
Andrew Balding’s Count Octave, the mount of Dante-winning jockey Oisin Murphy, made a winning reappearance at Wolverhampton before finishing third behind the prolific Defoe in the Jockey Club Stakes at Newmarket. “The faster the ground the better and I’d hope he will run a decent race,” said the trainer.