Vic may be out, but Mullins can still land the JLT Novices’ Chase
Ruby Walsh’s ability to get Killultagh Vic up to win the Coral.ie Novices’ Chase despite a huge blunder at the last saw Willie Mullins’ charge shoot to the top of the betting for the JLT Novices’ Chase market in January, but injury now means he won’t get a chance to justify those odds.
Walsh has spoken of how the news has frustrated him with Cheltenham now just five weeks away.
“It’s disappointing, because he looked a very promising horse, but hopefully the injury isn’t that serious and he can build on what he’s achieved so far when he comes back,” he told the Daily Mirror.
Taking the seven-year-old’s place at the top of the betting is Nigel Twiston-Davies’ Bristol De Mai at 11/4, but the value could be to back the prize to still head back to Mullins’ Closutton yard regardless.
Outlander has flourished since swapping hurdles for fences, winning all three of his outings this season.
The latest one of those successes came in a competitive renewal of the Flogas Novice Chase at Leopardstown, after which he was cut into 8/1 from 25/1 for Festival success.
Killultagh Vic’s withdrawal saw his price trimmed further into 6/1, but it could still be a very attractive price.
His success in the Grade 1 last weekend saw him dispose of some highly-rated rivals, with Monksland (second) and Pont Alexandre (third) graded winners over hurdles and Zabana (fourth) backed from 20/1 into 10/1 for the JLT during the week.
The win saw the son of Stowaway jump economically and travel strongly before quickening well under Bryan Cooper and staying on strongly at the finish.
To land the Prestbury Park race, Outlander will need to do better than last year in which he finished sixth in the Neptune Novices’ Chase, but with the ground good that day and all his wins coming on yielding or softer conditions may have been against him slightly.
The recent rains mean the Festival could be run with a bit more give in the ground this time, boasting his chances even further.
While the JLT trip is over two-mile four-furlongs, the ability to stay further looks paramount with 13 of the 15 horses to finish in the first three since the races’ inception having previously, or subsequently, winning over a longer distance.
Saturday’s success and a close second in a three-mile contest over hurdles in 2014 suggest that stamina is plentiful in the Gigginstown Stud-owned gelding.
The owners already have hot-favourite No More Heroes to carry their colours in the RSA Chase, so keeping Mullins’ charge at the intermediate trip gives Michael O’Leary and co. a chance to land two of the big novice contests at the Festival.
And in a Festival dominated by short-priced antepost favourites trained by the champion trainer, it’s refreshing to see one Mullins’ star available at such attractive odds.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.