With the Cheltenham Festival just around the corner, thousands across the United Kingdom and Ireland will be thoroughly studying the form guides in the hope of landing a few winners across the iconic four-day Prestbury Park meeting.
Last month’s Dublin Racing Festival could be one of the best indications yet as to who to splash your on, as many of the headline acts from Ireland’s prestigious stables, namely those of Willie Mullins, Gordon Elliott and Henry de Bromhead, rounded off their last–minute preparations at the Leopardstown meeting.
Amongst Mullins’ nine winners from the 15 races across the two-day meeting in Dublin’s suburbs was Kilcruit, and he’ll be hoping to replicate his amazing run at the Dublin Racing Festival at Cheltenham, where he is entered for the Grade 1 Champion Bumper.
Kilcruit has been branded a superstar in the making after his emphatic victory in the Grade 2 Future Starts Flat Race at Leopardstown. The six-year-old was the 11/10 favourite heading into the race and he duly delivered upon the expectations from trainer, jockey Patrick Mullins and punters alike.
Two furlongs out, Kilcruit kicked into action without even a crack of Mullins’ whip, and from there he left the rest of the field in awe, pulling length-after-length clear of his opponents before eventually romping over the line some 12 lengths clear of Letsbeclearaboutit.
“I thought Patrick had picked the wrong one – how wrong was I?” trainer about his son’s decision to ride Kilcruit in the Dublin Racing Festival outing. “I thought Ramillies (finished fifth) put up a very good performance here at Christmas, but Patrick has huge confidence in this horse – and now I can see why.
“My mother bred him, Patrick’s granny. He was particularly pleased to be riding a winner for her. It was a superb performance in what was a very good race. I thought he’d be a nice horse, but I didn’t think he had that sort of capability – that was unreal what he produced there.”
The incredible victory has got punters thinking ahead of the day two finale. Previously, Elliott’s Sir Gerhard had led the way in the Cheltenham Champion Bumper odds. However, after his incredible victory at Leopardstown, the bookies are now swaying in favour of Kilcruit, who is now as short as 13/8 after once being as far out as a 10/1 shot.
Of course, despite Kilcruit stealing the favourite status from Sir Gerhard, the latter cannot be written off. His 14-length victory over The Banger Doyle at Down Royal last October, followed by another win at Navan in December has left him in good stead heading to the Cotswolds meeting.
Kilcruit’s recent victory certainly adds a bit of spice to the Champion Bumper. There is little more appealing at the Cheltenham Festival than two of Mullins’ and Elliott’s horses going head-to-head in a race, and in Kilcruit versus Sir Gerhard we will get to see two potential future stars putting each other through their paces, and it’ll certainly be interesting to see the on the day to see who prevails.