Willie Mullins wins HRI award and announces Faugheen return

Sole Power named Horse of the Year at Horse Racing Ireland Awards on Monday

 

Champion trainer Willie Mullins was honoured with the The National Hunt award at the 12th Horse Racing Ireland Awards staged at Leopardstown on Monday, after he recorded a phenomenal 185 winners in 2014.

Asked for his highlights, he said: “Going to Cheltenham I wanted two things, I wanted Hurricane Fly to win and Quevega to win, I got one of those things and for Hurricane Fly to come back and break the record (for Grade One wins) was special.

“I’d say they were the two highlights on the racetrack.

“The other thing is I’m standing here today, but the commitment my staff at home...I remember a Monday morning last year and the worst weather I’ve ever seen, I went up to the gallop and not one of my staff was missing. I think that’s why I am here today, it’s my staff that keep the horses going.”

Looking at what he would still like to win, Mullins said: “I’ve been second in four Gold Cups and I would like to win one, that would be a huge achievement. We possibly have a horse or two in the yard that might do that.”

Festive return

Mullins also revealed that British racegoers are set to have another chance to see Faugheen in the flesh over the festive period. He nominated the William Hill Christmas Hurdle at Kempton on St Stephen’s Day as the likely target for his exciting charge.

Now the outright favourite for the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham in March, the six-year-old’s credentials are likely to be given a thorough test at Kempton, with The New One expected to be in attendance together with Irving.

“The horse that’s on everyone’s lips I suppose is Faugheen, what he did in England (Ascot), the size of him going over there, hopefully there’s improvement in him,” said Mullins.

“JP (McManus, owner of Champion Hurdle winner Jezki) was telling me I should go to the Christmas Hurdle (at Kempton) and I think I’ll take his advice.”

Horse of the Year

The coveted Horse of the Year crown went to Sole Power, the crack sprinter lifted the King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot for the second successive year and also the Nunthorpe at York — a race he won in 2010 when a 100-1 chance.

Trainer Eddie Lynam , who won the Flat award, said: “Every year you think it’s probably going to be the end and he can’t go and do it again, but this has probably been his best year.

“In fairness to Dave and Sabina (Power) they are great to train for and I can run or not run him wherever I want, whether he’s 100-1 or even-money they back me, but at the end of the day he’s a hell of a horse and makes people like me look good.

“He’s taken us all round the world and I’m delighted he’s won this award.”

Racecourse

Racecourse of the Year went to Leopardstown, which is set for a €14 million investment in facilities according to chairman Davy McGrath, while the Point to Point title was given to Jamie Codd.

The final award was that for Lifetime Achievement and saw a popular winner in legendary former trainer Mick O’Toole.

O’Toole, who retired from training almost 20 years ago, started training greyhounds but progressed into a top handler under both Flat and jumps codes.

He sent out Dickens Hill to be second to Troy in the 1979 English and Irish Derby as well as winning the Coral-Eclipse, and among his Cheltenham successes was Davy Lad in the 1977 Gold Cup, ridden by the late Dessie Hughes.

Paying tribute to Hughes, O’Toole said: “Without Dessie Hughes I would never have been the success I was. He was invaluable, a great gentleman and we never had a cross word between us.

“He turned out to be a fantastic trainer, he was so tough and such a gentleman.”

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