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Abacadabras A Big Price For The Champion Hurdle

Keith Donoghue for Bookies.com

Keith Donoghue  | 9 mins

Abacadabras A Big Price For The Champion Hurdle

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David Mullins

This week it became public knowledge that David Mullins has walked away from being a jockey and I really respect his decision.

It’s very simple, if you’re not happy doing something you have to re-evaluate it. He is a superb jockey and has had some huge days in the saddle, but if he’s not enjoying it, it just doesn’t matter. Being a jockey is a really hard life and I can’t imagine how tough these last few months were for him when his heart maybe wasn’t fully in it.

Some of the responses to the news have been typical of the racing bubble at times. There is an old myth that if you are a jockey you have to love it, you have to work really hard and you should be trying all the time to be riding everything you can. Sometimes a lot of people don’t seem to realise there is life outside of racing.

David said himself on a few interviews that he was surprised by the coverage and I agree with him. Of course, a jockey with his ability and family ties will get a bigger response, but jockeys are walking away all the time.

It’s a very hard life at times being a jockey. Is there any other professional elite sport where you work a full day and then go to “play your game” after? It’s a long day, every day, where we go in and ride out before going to the racecourse. It can be extremely draining, and you have to love it to do it.

I always rated him really highly as a horseman, he was just brilliant in the saddle. He was always a really clever jockey; he had a great pair of hands and he was especially great at riding off a feel of a race.

I know he has said that the injury wasn’t anything to do with his decision, but sometimes it can take a bad fall or a break from it all to realise there is a lot more to life. When my weight was really bad, and I missed the ride on Labaik I was very low, and I just found it very hard to keep going day to day as a jockey. Taking a break was great for me and getting away from it completely is clearly what David wants.

To put it simply, David is going to be successful at whatever he decides to do next. He’s just a very smart guy who I always enjoy talking to about a particular race or a horse, as his opinion is always worth listening to. I wish him the best with everything, but he’s not dead and I’m sure I’ll be bumping into him at the races for many years to come!

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Roaring Bull Could Go Well In The Thyestes

As always, the Thyestes Chase is a very competitive race, and this year is no different. There is plenty to like at the top of the market, but I think Roaring Bull could actually go well at big odds of 25/1.

He ran really well in fifth in this race under Davy Russell last year, but he is a pound lower this time around and Jordan Gainford claims a very valuable seven on Thursday. Of course, he’s vulnerable to an improver, but he will love conditions and could well surprise a few here.

Jordan Gainford is a jockey you’ll hear a lot more of as well over the next few years, I think he’s extremely promising. He has plenty of experience in point to points when riding plenty for Colin Bowe and he looks to have a lot of ability. His seven-pound claim is going to be of real value to trainers over the next while.

Roaring Bull should give him a great spin and they could well grab a place in the Thyestes Chase at Gowran Park on Thursday.

Stayers Hurdle

This is such a good race this year, it really looks the deepest renewal in a while.

Firstly, we can’t get away from the fact that the English horses, particularly the front two of Paisley Park and Thyme Hill, could just be a bit clear of the Irish. They’ve had two brilliant battles now and both have to be respected for March. Roksana has been brilliant as well this season so the UK can definitely be confident heading into this race.

We all have a bit to do to get to their levels, but it’s far from impossible.

I know I’m associated with both horses so I could easily be called a bit biased, but I think The Storyteller and Ronald Pump are the two who could trouble the front two the most.

Obviously we missed Christmas unfortunately with Ronald Pump, but he’s fine now and will go straight to Cheltenham in March. He has improved in my opinion this season, and that was a huge run in the Hatton’s Grace. It has to be remembered that he was mixing it over fences and hurdles last season, so he has had a much more suitable preparation this year.

I just think this preparation and how much more confidence he can be ridden with now will bring him even closer than last year. It could be a better race, but he’s a better horse too.

The Storyteller is arguably a very big price too really at 22/1. He was only a length behind Sire Du Berlais at Cheltenham last year and he has improved this season. He ran brilliant at Christmas and on better ground you could see him going very well in the Stayers Hurdle.

Of course others in the race from Ireland have chances, but I think there is reasons to take them on. Flooring Porter has been class on his last two runs, but I doubt he’ll have things his own way in this race. As I’ve said before I love Fury Road, but I’m not at all sure he is a real out and out stayer and Sire Du Berlais does look short enough at 8/1 or so considering there isn’t much between him and The Storyteller for example.

I’d be very happy to have The Storyteller and Ronald Pump, both who are 20/1 or bigger, onside. I’d be delighted to ride either of them at Cheltenham in a few weeks.

Champion Hurdle

The Champion Hurdle is a really competitive division this year. Epatante is still the one to beat and you can forgive her run at Christmas, but I think this might be a better renewal and she’s short enough in the betting.

As brilliant as they are, we somewhat know where we stand with the likes of Sharjah and Silver Streak, so I’ve come full circle with Abacadabras and I think he could go very close.

As readers of this column will know I was very much on the side of Saint Roi heading into Christmas, but that opinion has been changing over these last few weeks.

Saint Roi might not be as good as I thought he was and it is possible that he might have just reached his level as it has to be remembered it was handicaps he was winning last season. Abacadabras came back with mucus in his lungs after that run at Christmas and you can easily write that off. He’s a proper Grade One horse at the end of the day as he is a Morgiana winner, he ran great behind Envoi Allen last year and even if the Supreme worked out brilliantly for him, he still travelled through the race like a very good horse.

You’d think the pace will suit him on the day and he’s a live contender. The Dublin Racing Festival will tell us more, but there is definitely a reason to be very hopeful about him taking home the Champion Hurdle. He seems to be getting more mature now in how he is jumping and finishing out his races which is obviously a major bonus.

He has some great form, he acts well at Cheltenham and 16/1 could just be too big a price! Aspire Tower has to be taken seriously as well as he is another who is improving and did beat our lad at Down Royal, but the pace that day definitely wouldn’t have suited Abacadabras.

Of course he still has his quirks, but Abacadabras should have a proper pace to aim at in a Champion Hurdle and that should bring out the very best of him.

About the Author

Keith Donoghue for Bookies.com
Keith Donoghue
Keith Donoghue is one of the top National Hunt jockeys in the world, famed for his partnership with Tiger Roll winning two Cross Country Chases at the Cheltenham Festival. Keith also boasts a Grade 1 winner over fences, and is a great writer to boot. Keith covered the day to day of being a jockey in his weekly blog exclusive to Bookmakers.