Mullins smashes amateur record
RACING:The dominance that champion trainer Willie Mullins exerts over National Hunt racing in Ireland means big-day hat-tricks with a Grade One highlight, Grade Three support and a bumper are almost par for the course.
But Saturday’s Leopardstown exploits by son Patrick, and Hurricane Fly – possibly the best horse Mullins has had through his hands – means this particular three-timer will resonate longer than most.
Parental pride was certainly written all over Mullins’s face as his 23-year-old old son smashed Billy Parkinson’s 1915 record of 72 winners by an amateur rider in a calendar year.
Almost a fortnight after tying the 97-year-old record, there was palpable relief when the champion amateur rider scored on board Zuzka in the Grade Three mares race. He then quickly hit 74 for the year on Outlander in the final event of Leopardstown’s Christmas festival.
“I was starting to think it might not happen. The last few days I was beginning to worry and I thought it wouldn’t be the end of the world if I didn’t get it – but now I think it would have been!” said the jockey. “All the credit has to go to my father. He’s given me the horses and the advice on how to ride them.”
But Mullins snr wasn’t having that, however, and said: “It’s an extraordinary effort on Patrick’s part, given his weight. He’s put in the effort and he’s got his reward.”
Patrick Mullins thanked Ruby Walsh for getting off Zuzka, but no sort of deadline would have got the eight-times champion professional off Hurricane Fly who might have only done what a 1 to 5 favourite is expected to do in the Istabraq Festival Hurdle. But he looked mighty impressive doing it.
“He was good,” reported Walsh. “He did what he was entitled to do and did it very well.”
Comedy Of Errors is the only horse to regain the Champion Hurdle crown, but most bookmakers jumped Hurricane Fly over Darlan in ante-post betting for Cheltenham after the Irish star’s seven-length defeat of Unaccompanied.
“He was out of sorts, on and off, last season. But we’re a lot happier with him this season,” said a satisfied Mullins, before nominating the Irish Champion back at Leopardstown as a next stop. “He seems to be back to himself.”
Hurricane Fly’s stable companion, Thousand Stars, will also go for the Irish Champion after a third on Saturday that represented a return to form for the dual-French Champion Hurdle winner. Unaccompanied is being targeted at the mares hurdle at Cheltenham with one run beforehand.
The Mullins team had to settle for runner-up money in the Beginners Chase won by Lord Windermere. But Marasonnien was running on to good effect at the finish to suggest a return to three miles will suit the Grade One-winning hurdler well.
Lord Windermere overcame trouble in running on the turn-in and three miles is what trainer Jim Culloty is looking at in the long term for him also.
“On this ground I didn’t want to subject him to a gruelling race,” he said. “He has a bright future.”