Willie Mullins: ‘It might be a little harder, the next thousand – but we’ll give it a go’

Trainer starts on road to 5,000 winners after Naas hat-trick puts him on 4,004

Perhaps the first steps towards 5,000 winners were taken by Willie Mullins at Naas on Sunday.

The groundbreaking champion National Hunt trainer reached 4,000 winners worldwide with Bronn’s success in Saturday’s opener at Fairyhouse.

Ashroe Diamond quickly made it 4,001 on that same programme and that momentum continued to Naas despite the stewards intervening in Sunday’s opener to take away a Grade Three pot.

Mullins’s 13-8 favourite Ramillies was first past the post by a neck in the Finlay Novice Chase from a fast-finishing Thedevilscoachman.


However, the stewards examined how Paul Townend on Ramillies appeared to move right and tighten up his rival after the second last fence.

Bryan Cooper on Thedevilscoachman didn’t enjoy a smooth passage on the run to the last either, getting a bump from the third, Amirite, and the JP McManus-owned horse looked an unlucky loser.

Any assumption that Ramillies would keep the race in return for Townend getting a few days holiday proved unfounded as the stewards reversed the placings.

It looked a refreshing interpretation of the interference rules and in the circumstances Townend’s good overall record earning him a caution rather than a suspension looked a decent result for the champion jockey.

Mullins wasn’t inclined to comment on a reverse that barely rated a blip in the overall context of his landmark achievement.

Dermot Weld is the only other Irish trainer to train 4,000 winners, having passed the mark in 2016.

A trio of British flat trainers, topped by Mark Johnston with a record 5,050, have also passed 4,000 while only Martin Pipe (4,183) managed it concentrating on the jumps sphere.

Mullins has enjoyed cross-code international success in Australia, Japan, Saudi Arabia and the US, as well as in Europe.

However, the scale of his success is placed in the context of Ireland’s comparatively small fixture programme.

On Sunday, Mullins admitted to being “astounded” when told he was closing in on 4,000, but during his 35-year training career he has redrawn the parameters of racing success.

It includes a record Cheltenham festival haul of 88 and the strength in depth of his latest team could be underlined at next weekend’s Dublin Racing Festival.

Asked about longer-term plans Mullins said: “It might be a little harder, the next thousand – but we’ll give it a go!”

The fact it took him less than five years to rack the last thousand will make rivals sceptical of such a statement.

Despite the Ramillies reverse he ended Sunday on a neat tally of 4,004 after a hat-trick initiated by Echoes In Rain smoothly landing 5-6 odds in the Grade Three Limestone Lad Hurdle.

The mare beat her stable companion Cash Back while Bob Olinger’s decline continued as he struggled home third.

“She was keen enough and probably the few runs on the flat lit her up a bit. That’s the problem you have when you mix it but with a faster run race she’ll be all right,” Mullins said.

Echoes In Rain was cut to 6-1 for the Mares’ Hurdle at Cheltenham by some firms while went 20-1 about Seabank Bistro’s chance in the Albert Bartlett after his maiden hurdle success.

The three-timer was brought up by Western Diego’s impressive racecourse debut in the bumper.

Patrick Mullins made all on the 6-5 favourite who earned his ticket to the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham.

Mullins’s first ever winner as a trainer, Silver Batchelor in 1988, carried the colours of Paddy Kehoe.

Those same colours will be centre stage at Punchestown on Monday where they will be on Princess Zoe for her debut over jumps.

The 2020 Prix du Cadran heroine is a rare Group One winner to go over flights after failing to reach a suitable price in the sales ring last month.

After being ‘bought back’ at 300,000 Guineas, the popular eight-year-old grey will try to earn a place in Cheltenham’s Albert Bartlett Hurdle in a maiden hurdle due off at 1.57.

Danny Mullins rides the mare for his father Tony as she tries to win her first race since the Sagaro Stakes in April.

Pink In The Park looks a potential danger but if translating anything like her best on the flat to the job of jumping then Princess Zoe should win.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor is the racing correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Tipping Point column