Appreciate It | Willie Mullins’ record after an absence

With Appreciate It’s Champion Hurdle bid in mind, Tony McFadden reviews Willie Mullins’ record with horses running after a long absence.

Champion Hurdle contender Appreciate It has not been seen in competitive action since running out a wide-margin winner of the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at last season’s Cheltenham Festival. However, trainer Willie Mullins’ record with horses making their seasonal reappearance at the meeting suggests the long absence will not be an issue.

Examining the data across the last ten Cheltenham Festivals, Willie Mullins has had 17 runners who were making their first start for more than 270 days.

Those 17 runners included five winners, resulting in a strike-rate of 29% and a level-stake profit of £22.01. However, the figures would look even more impressive had Annie Power (2015 Mares’ Hurdle) and Benie des Dieux (2019 Mares’ Hurdle) not fallen at the final flight with the race at their mercy.

Mullins has also had three horses – Fiveforthree (2013 Coral Cup), Castello Sforza (2016 Champion Bumper) and Concertista (2019 Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle) – hit the frame at double-figure prices, helping contribute to an impressive Run To Form percentage of 65%. This compares favorably to Mullins’ 51% Run To Form percentage with all his Cheltenham Festival runners in the last ten seasons.

In fact, only five of the 17 failed to make the frame after completing – there were four fallers – and it’s worth pointing out that the shortest starting price among that quintet was 25/1. so expectations were low.

Appreciate It is rated 12 lb inferior to Honeysuckle on Timeform’s weight-adjusted ratings, which highlights the extent of his task.

He may well come up short against a mare of Honeysuckle’s quality, but lack of fitness or match practice should not be a valid excuse.

Mullins’ Festival winners after more than 270 days off (last ten Festivals)

Quevega (2012 Mares’ Hurdle)
Quevega (2013 Mares’ Hurdle)
Quevega (2014 Mares’ Hurdle)
Arctic Fire (2017 County Hurdle)
Penhill (2018 Stayers’ Hurdle)

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