The History of Willie Mullins at the Cheltenham Races - The Leamington Observer

The History of Willie Mullins at the Cheltenham Races

Leamington Editorial 14th Mar, 2024   0

Just a few days ago, Fact To File became the bookies most backed horse for the 2024 Cheltenham Festival. Having finished second in the 2023 Champion Bumper and won the latest Dublin Racing Festival, there’s plenty of good reasons for why bookies are expecting good things from this horse. But perhaps one of the most significant is the fact that he belongs to Willie Mullins.

Since the start of his career in 1988, Mullins has taken the racing world by storm, with a total of 94 Cheltenham wins making him the most successful trainer in Cheltenham Festival history. For people who bet on Cheltenham horses, it’s become almost a habit to check if Mullins has been training them. If he has, there’s a good chance you’re in for a win!

In the lead up to Cheltenham Festival 2024, then, we thought it was a good time to look into Mullins’ history and success. Below is a full account of his time at Cheltenham, as well as a little prediction on what might happen for him at this year’s festival.

Journey to the Top

As mentioned before, Mullins first started training racehorses in 1988, having been an assistant to his father Paddy Mullins. Over the last 36 years, he has saddled more winners than any trainer in the festival’s 164-year history, but it took him a few years to get the hang of things.

It was in 1995 that Mullins had his first win, with Tourist Attraction winning the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in – excuse the pun – supreme style.

After that, he has notched dozens of other wins on his belt, including the Champion Hurdle in 2011, 2013, 2015, and 2016, the Stayers’ Hurdle – with particular highlights including the 2017 and 2018 race – and the Champion Bumper, which he has won a record 12 times.

Speaking of the Champion Bumper, 37 horses have been given entry into this year’s tournament, and 14 of those horses are trained by Mullins. This is just further proof that, at Cheltenham Festival, Mullins really holds all the aces.

Despite such an impressive career at Cheltenham, however, the ride hasn’t always been easy. In fact, for a long time, plenty of horse racing spectators believed that Mullins was cursed. You may have noted its absence in this article already, but Mullins hasn’t had the best relationship with the most popular race of the Cheltenham Festival, the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Year-on-year, his horses would put in a good performance, but consistently be pipped to the post by their competitors. It wasn’t until 2019 – 31 years after he began his career – that he finally gained his first Cheltenham Gold Cup win. But he seems to have got the hang of it now! Since 2019, Mullins has won 3 Cheltenham Gold Cups and – although he wouldn’t have believed it 5 years ago – he’s currently eyeing up a fourth.

Predictions for 2024

Speaking of a fourth Gold Cup, Mullins is certainly in a good position to do it. As mentioned before, he has a good handful of horses that have been performing well, and with experienced jockeys like Paul Townend given the majority of the rides, it’s hard to see who’s going to have a better shot.

That being said, there have been a lot of breakthrough horses in recent months, including GiveMeFive, who put in a spectacular performance at Warick. Legendary jockey Blackmore also has the pick of Henry De Bromhead’s yard, and while he may not have had the same success as Mullins at Cheltenham, both he and Blackmore are a force to be reckoned with.

As ever, we’re all going to have to wait and see to find out. But we can certainly see a future where we’ll have to be editing this article in a month’s time, adding another few wins onto Mullins’ already unfathomable statistics.

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