NORTH Yorkshire jockey Paul Mulrennan’s confidence is infectious as he prepare’s to ride Mecca’s Angel against Europe’s elite sprinters in tomorrow’s Prix de l’Abbaye at Chantilly.
He regards the Michael Dods-trained filly as the best sprinter in the world following her second successive Nunthorpe win at York’s Ebor festival while the no-nonsense Boroughbridge rider draws strength from the fact that he’s enjoying a career best season.
That the plain-speaking 34-year-old has never ridden previously at Chantilly, which is hosting the blue riband Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe while Longchamp is redeveloped, does not perturb Mulrennan. Quite the opposite.
“It’s like any other sprint course, five furlongs in a straight line. It’s not rocket science,” the jockey told The Yorkshire Post in an exclusive interview.
“I’ve not ridden there before. I’m in and out for just the one race, but Mecca’s Angel is in great form. I sat on her on Wednesday and she felt great. She feels as a good as ever. She’s just where Michael and I want her.”
Despite being hot favourite, the race is no formality – a strong Yorkshire challenge includes the David Griffiths-trained pair of Take Cover, third to Mecca’s Angel in the Nunthorpe, and stablemate Duke Of Firenze while Paul Midgley saddles the ever dependable Line Of Reason.
Sprinters from Yorkshire and the North also have a formidable record – past winners include Continent (2002), Desert Lord (2006), Tangerine Trees (2011) and Move In Time (2014).
Yet, on ratings and form, none of this quartet comes close to matching the blistering speed of Mecca’s Angel whose only blip this year came at Royal Ascot when she was found to be in season after finishing unplaced in the King’s Stand Stakes.
From 18 career starts, she’s won 10 races and amassed more than £650,000 in prize money – a sum which will increase significantly when she’s retired to stud after the Prix de l’Abbaye or the Qipco Champions Day sprint at Ascot in a fortnight’s time.
“She’s the class horse in the race,” said Mulrennan who explained why the high expectations will not be burdensome.
“It’s definitely an advantage. I am, arguably, on the best sprinter in the world, definitely Europe. The Timeform ratings have put her up there as the best there is.
“She’s definitely better this year than last year – and you saw that in the Nunthorpe.”
By way of explanation, Mecca’s Angel – owned by David Metcalfe – won the Group One in 56.24 seconds. Only the legendary Dayjur has completed the five furlongs up Knavesmire in a quicker time – and that was 56.16 seconds in 1990 in a performance that jockey Willie Carson later described as one of the most electrifying of his illustrious career.
“If I had ridden her out to the line, she would have broken the course record,” said Mulrennan.
“If she gets her conditions – she just doesn’t want jar in the ground – she’s the real deal. Why is she special? She’s fast and she’s a filly. She’s from a Northern yard and Michael only paid £16,000 for her – it’s a little bit of a fairytale. a yard in the North, a £16,000 purchase and a Northern jockey – it’s all there.
“She’s helped to raise my profile. This is my best ever year and a lot of it is down to her.
“I’ve gone over £1m in prize money and am nearly up to 100 winners. Mecca’s Angel has given me the two Group One wins of my career and I’ve won five Group races this season.
“When I was an apprentice, the trainer Patrick Holmes told me to think like AP McCoy. Big winners on a Saturday are great, but there’s still lots of Monday to Friday racing.”
Though he fully expects Jim Crowley to become champion jockey after a phenomenal 45 winners in September prior to last night’s racing, Mulrennan is seventh in the standings and believes the title race can be won by unsung heroes of the weighing room because the bigger names are retained by top owners whose horses come first.
“It gives hope to every jockey in the top 15,” added Mulrennan who credits the support of George Wilson at Liverpool John Moores University for keeping his weight at a steady anad manageable 8st 10lb.
“Johnny Murtagh, Kieren Fallon, Mick Kinane, they all rode their best when they were in their late 30s and early 40s. Frankie (Dettori) is also flying. Hopefully it’s the same with me.”