Never mind the ‘King of Closutton’, Willie Mullins is the King of Prestbury Park. The Irishman and the Cheltenham Festival go together like fish and chips. After this year’s renewal, Mullins took his tally to 88 Festival winners, further cementing his place as the most successful trainer – and edging ever-closer to that iconic century.
Not only that, but the nine-time Leading Trainer absolutely destroyed the previous record he shared with fellow handler, Gordon Elliott, for the most wins at a single Festival – landing 10 winners, with the record having stood at eight.
While all eyes will soon turn to the flat season, as the British Classics get underway – and those who bet on horse racing odds on skybet.com, will be checking the latest markets – let’s recap on that top 10 for Mullins.
Mares' Chase Result:— Racing Tips (@racingtips) March 18, 2022
🥇 – Elimay
🥈 – Pink Legend
🥉 – Scarlet And Dove
Another win for Willie Mullins (10 wins!) and one on the board for JP McManus – Another runner-up last year gets their day in the sun!! 👏pic.twitter.com/4gWVAtuSJ6
National Hunt Challenge Cup – Stattler
Mullins left it late in the day to get off the mark, winning the final race on day one – the Grade 2 National Hunt Challenge Cup. Son Patrick was in the saddle, as the 2/1 chance battled against favourite Run Wild Run. Stattler took the lead when two out, and was cruising after the last to run clear and win by eight lengths – putting an end to the British dominance on opening day.
Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle – Sir Gerhard
The first of three wins on day two – Sir Gerhard had been the favourite going into the Grade 1 race, and certainly didn’t disappoint. The hammering rain made conditions difficult, and there had been question marks over his stamina, but as the race went on, it was Sir Gerhard’s to lose. The gelding with Paul Townend in the saddle powered up the hill past the post, to win by three-and-a-half lengths over Three Stripe Life.
Queen Mother Champion Chase – Energumene
Of all the races he had won, Mullins had never secured the day’s feature race, the Queen Mother Champion Chase – until now. It was another win for jockey Townend, who rode the 5/2 shot Energumene. And Mullins broke the hoodoo after the favourite, Shishkin, was pulled up. After disputing the lead when three out, the eight-year-old ran clear in the run-in, with 40/1 outsider Funambule Sivola finishing some eight-and-a-half lengths behind.
Champion Bumper – Facile Vega
The Champion Bumper is Mullins’ forte and he landed his twelfth victory with Facile Vega, ending day two with a fourth win at the Festival. Again, the heavy ground made conditions difficult, but Patrick Mullins rode a patient race – tracking the leaders, before gaining the ascendancy. Going up the hill on the inside of American Mike (ridden by Jamie Codd), the duo powered clear in the final straight to top off a trio of wins.
Ryanair Chase – Allaho
In what proved to be a rollercoaster week, the Closutton-based trainer only secured one win of the third day of the Festival, but landed the Grade 1 Ryanair Chase. The 4/7 favourite sauntered to a second successive victory, and with a bigger margin of victory than in 2021. It was the Festival’s Top Jockey Townend once more, who led the rest of the field on a merry dance. He made it look easy and despite a mistake at the last – victory was never in any doubt and Janidil could only finish 14 lengths behind.
Triumph Hurdle – Vauban
On the final day of Cheltenham, Mullins doubled his tally of winners for the week, beginning in the day’s opening race – the Grade 1 Triumph Hurdle. It was an impressive performance by Vauban and Townend, with former winner and jockey Ruby Walsh proclaiming that the Champion Hurdle should be next year’s target. It was an Irish clean sweep, with Vauban closely followed by Elliott’s duo of Fil Dor and Pied Piper.
County Handicap Hurdle – State Man
In Townend’s final win of the week, the favourite came out on top once more, as State Man landed Mullins yet another win. In a hugely competitive field, the jockey rode with confidence – happy to position himself in the rear before choosing the opportunity to hammer up the home straight. The margin of victory was little over a length, but as soon as he got to the front, the win was in no doubt.
Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle – The Nice Guy
In Mullins’ longest odds winner of the Festival, just sometimes, The Nice Guy does finish first. It marked an early hat-trick of wins on the final day at Cheltenham, and the winner trainer said afterwards:
“I think he was the outsider of ours as he shows me nothing at home.”
After being held up in midfield, credit had to go to jockey Sean O’Keeffe, who had been off-the-pace, but turned it around before the last.
Hunters’ Chase – Bill away
After coming second in the previous two runnings, Bill away made it third time lucky – although left it late to snatch victory from the hooves of Winged Leader. Mullins Jr was in the saddle, as the 10-year-old gelding powered into the lead in the final 100-or-so yards to win by a neck. Mighty Stowaway could only finish 12 lengths behind in third place.
Mares’ Chase – Elimay
And in the penultimate race on Gold Cup Day, Mullins secured that record-breaking 10th win in the Mares Chase – marking a second successive victory in the race which was only established last year. It proved to be a thrilling race, with four mares in contention at the last, but Elimay proved strongest going up the hill, to win by half a length over Pink Legend, who in turn, finished a nose ahead of Scarlet And Dove.