Bath based Neil Mulholland has made an early start to the new Jumps season with 3 winners from 24 individual runners since the start of the month.
This includes a double yesterday at Perth, a near 900 mile round trip, made all the sweeter by Lake Baikal's 3l victory in the 2m Handicap Chase, and Harbour Force in the second division of the 2m4f handicap hurdle.
The Wiltshire trainer, based at Conkwell Grange, has been a bellwether of consistency over the past six years, with on or around 50 winners year on year, capped by an exceptional 2016-17 when his 19% strike rate was rewarded with 108 winners.
This success has been largely due to moving to Conkwell, where the range of facilities enabled an uplift in horses in training. Like all trainers, Mulholland is endeavouring to improve the quality of stock at Conkwell, which has previously been a successful National Hunt stud. Last season, horses rated over 140 numbered 3; winning a higher quality of stock to the yard will enable the stable to compete in more of the high value Saturday races that punctuate the calendar.
That said, Mulholland is no stranger to eating at racing's top table. Winner of an archly competitive handicap at the Festival with The Druid's Nephew in 2015, Mulholland has made capturing big handicaps a speciality, including Kempton's big February Chase this year, and the Bet365 Chase to conclude the season at Sandown in 2016. He's knocking on the door and only needs a marquee horse to catapult him into the spotlight on a permanent basis.
Perth in the summer behind closed doors is a long way from Cheltenham, but it's been a promising start so far from just another of Wiltshire's great trainers.