Willie Mullins Becomes Winning-Most Trainer in Irish Racing History

May 4, 2024

Trainer Willie Mullins pictured with Ballyburn as he set a new record for the winning-most Irish trainer in history. (Breandán Ó hUallacháin photo)

By Breandán Ó hUallacháin

It has been an incredible 2023/’24 season for trainer Willie Mullins. On Friday at Punchestown’s Irish National Hunt Festival in County Kildare, the Closutton maestro set another record to add to his season of huge achievements.

The County Carlow-based handler became the winning-most Irish horse racing trainer ever with the success of Ballyburn in the Grade 1 Alanna Homes Champion Novice Hurdle. The win, the 4,378th of Mullins’ career saw him surpass the legendary Dermot Weld, who trained Go and Go to win the 1990 Belmont Stakes, the first leg of the American Triple Crown.

Weld, a pioneer of travelling horses around the world has won various  major races in the USA, among them the American Derby three times (Pine Dance in 2000, Evolving Tactics in 2003 and Simple Exchange in 2004), the American Oaks with Dimitrove in 2003, the Secreteriat Stakes in 2008 courtesy of Winchester, the Matriarch Stakes with Dress to Thrill in 2002, with his most recent US success coming in the guise of Tarnawa in the 2020 Breeders’ Cup Turf.

Mullins, the new winning-most Irtish trainer ever spoke of his pride at breaking the record of Dermot Weld, stating:

“It is trememndous to break the record. Dermot broke many records, a super trainer. (It is) fantastic to be up there alongside Dermot Weld. He went to America; went down to Australia and won the Melbourne Cup (with Vintage Crop in 1993 and Media Puzzle in 2002). In America he won the Belmont Stakes. Anytime you can do something Dermot Weld did – I’m very privileged.”

Speaking of his admiration for the worldwide successes of Dermot Weld, Mullins added:

“I’ll never do what he did. He won the first Melbourne Cup (by a European trainer), he went across and won the Belmont Stakes (in America); there’s stuff that he did that no other people will.”

Mullins’ list of achievements this season has been quite spectacular. He won all Grade 1 races at the Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown in February; won both the Champion Hurdle with State Man and Gold Cup with Galopin Des Champs at Cheltenham among his nine  winners at this year’s Festival; he became the first trainer ever to train 100 winners at the Cheltenham Festival; he won the Aintree and Scottish Grand Nationals in the space of a fortnight, and he became the first Ireland-based trainer to be champion jumps trainer in Britain in 70 years, emulating the legendary Vincent O’Brien, father-in-law of Coolmore magnate, John Magnier. 

This afternoon, at Punchestown, on the final day of the 2023/’24 Irish jumps racing season, Willie Mullins will be crowned champion trainer for the 18th time.

Mullins only started training horses in 1988, having previously ridden as an amateur jumps jockey – where he was six-times the leading amateur rider in Ireland. He also operated as an assistant trainer to his father, Paddy, a dual-purpose jumps and flat handler, and to top flat conditioner Jim Bolger. 

The County Carlow-based conditioner achieved a Grade 1 double on Friday and increased his world record haul of Grade 1 victories to 37 for this season, surpassing his previous record of 34 he set in the 2015/’16 season. With the possibility of more to come on Saturday, all eyes will be on Mullins as he provides the favourite in both Grade 1 races at Punchestown.

Fully aware that records are there for breaking, Mullins contemplated the fact that some day in the future another trainer will surpass his new record, explaining:

“I imagine someone else will come and break those records. Those numbers records are there to be broken and it’s just great to be here in this position, no matter who is there at the end of the year.”

This article is a must read. 1st ballot Hall of Fame horseplayer, generous teacher and heralded writer! Thanks John. twitter.com/jonathanstetti…

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