‘Whole new operation’ – Willie Mullins makes last-minute change to Cheltenham Festival preparation | The Sun
WILLIE MULLINS has implemented a last-minute change to his Cheltenham Festival preparation in the hope of banging in a record number of winners.
The genius Irish trainer is absolutely convinced it needed to be done after Energumene's dodgy jumping the last time he was at Cheltenham.
Simply put, Mullins has painted all the bars on his schooling hurdles and fences white.
Stark white markings on the frames, guard rails and take-off boards replaced traditional orange colourings on the obstacles at British racecourses last year.
They remain orange for racing in Ireland.
Mullins said defending Champion Chase hero Energumene's jumping was slow in January's Clarence House Chase because he had been jumping over orange obstacles at home.
It's a slight change but one Mullins reckons will give him that all-important edge.
The trainer usually works his horses at Leopardstown before the Festival, but he told Racing TV: "I don’t see much point in schooling here, if they all jump well.
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"Unless someone comes round with a bucket of whitewash tomorrow and paints those fences, I don’t see much point in schooling over the orange bars.
"I’ve put in a whole new schooling operation with white hurdles and fences and we’ll do our stuff at home.
"Some horses could go down (and jump) over blue fences, yellow fences, it wouldn’t matter a damn to them – they are just that cool.
"Other horses will look at them from a half-mile out and they will see something different.
"You never know which one, especially in the shorter races if you want to be up there and and have your position.
"You don’t want to have them looking at the first hurdle and backing off it or the first fence and backing off it, because you just lose your position and then at Cheltenham you are playing catch-up the whole time.
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"Whereas round the country tracks or not at the big meetings, it doesn’t matter so much, as you’ll get your ground back much easier.
"But at Cheltenham, no one gives you an inch.
"So what you lose at the first hurdle or fence, it’s gone, you are not going to get it back."
Mullins said his all-conquering string of thoroughbreds have got used to the change – but that it doesn't mean everything will be simple come Tuesday next week.
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He added: "They are jumping them every second day at home, so we’re good.
"You are always going to get little upsets, but we still have another week to go before we travel. Things will come right, but nothing major."
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