The Rise (And Rise) of Willie Mullins

Cheltenham is just around the corner, and the man of the moment – as was the case last year – is Willie Mullins who sends an incredible 8 favourites to the Festival as things stand. But who is Willie Mullins, and how has he become the standout leading trainer? 

After a successful career as an amateur jockey in Ireland, Willie followed in his father Paddy’s footsteps, making the move from riding to training in 1988. During his early training career, he worked under his father at their family stables and even had a short spell under the tutelage of icon Irish trainer, Jim Bolger – winner of £7,000,000 in prize money on the Flat in Great Britain & Ireland, just in the last five years.

He was soon able to establish and manage his own jump racing stable, winning his first Irish Champion National Hunt Trainer award in 2001. Noel Meade recaptured the title the following year and held onto it for six years, until Mullins took the title for a second time in 2008.

Since then, Irish training has all been about Willie Mullins. He has been the Irish Champion National Hunt Trainer every year since ‘08, training some of the best hurdlers and chasers in recent history, and making the trip over to English biggest festivals every years to battle for and often take home jumps racing’s most prestigious prizes.

It’s only in the last three or four years where Mullins has evolved from a very good trainer, into the most revered, feared and successful jumps trainer around. The Cheltenham Festival is the most prestigious Jumps Racing festival in the world and Mullins has certainly made his mark there in the last four years. Since 2012, the Mullins stable has boasted 20 winners, with only half of them winning as the favourite. At last year’s festival, he became the first trainer to ever have eight winners at the festival and also became the first to ever have the first, second and third placed horses in the Grade 1 Champion Hurdle.

Along with these winner, he has had 13 second places in the last three years, so if you aren’t a studier of form and statistics and want to find a few festival winners, betting with Willie Mullins isn’t a bad way to go at all.

The sheer number of quality runners coming out of his stable at the moment is quite staggering. In the last 5 years, Willie Mullins has won over 28% of all the Grade 1 and 2 races at the Cheltenham Festival, and 8% of the rest. At the recent, high quality, Irish Gold Cup meeting at Leopardstown, just over a quarter of the runners in all eight races were trained by Willie Mullins, including four winners.

It’s hard to put a reason on just why Willie Mullins is dominating British racing like he is. One of the big reasons is his support from leading trainers – he has an excellent partnership with Rich Ricci, and they’ve successfully plundered France for riches previously overlooked. The Wylies and Michael O’Leary’s Gigginstown have also supplied him with filled pockets to go to war with at the sales. Min, Vautour, Douvan and Un De Sceaux are just some of the horses who have been purchased from France and who go to this year’s Festival with an excellent chance. There’s no doubt his initial success along with his results have brought in the biggest owners with the biggest pockets, and he’s got built a solid team including Ruby Walsh, Patrick Mullins, Paul Townsend and David Casey, not to mention his bloodstock advisors.

His stables haven’t been as dominant as they usually are so far this season, but there is no better trainer than Mullins when it comes to getting his horse fit and ready for the big occasion. So expect plenty more winners for Willie at this year’s Cheltenham festival, as he looks to cement his legacy as one of the best jumps trainers the British Isles has ever seen.

Find out whether which Willie Mullins horses we’re tipping to come home in front this year in our Cheltenham Festival tips section.

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