04 February 2024

Mullins in dreamland with weekend of Grade One domination

04 February 2024

Willie Mullins reflected on a weekend of “fantasy horse racing” at the Dublin Racing Festival after securing all eight Grade Ones prizes up for grabs across the two-day fixture for the first time.

The Closutton handler has dominated the high-profile meeting since its inception in 2018, although he had hitherto not quite found the correct combination to mop up all the top-level prizes in the same year.

But having once again sent an army of equine superstars to Leopardstown, Mullins completed a Grade One clean sweep, at odds of nearly 6,505-1 – an achievement the all-conquering champion trainer insisted he does not take for granted.

He said: “It’s been a superb weekend. You see the team in action this weekend and I’m delighted for them, I’m delighted for my owners and my staff, it’s terrific.

“It’s extraordinary, we know that. Everything has come together – we have tremendous owners who invest in Irish racing and they love it.

“It’s tremendous to have people from abroad bringing money like that into Irish racing and we’re the beneficiaries – we’re very lucky.”

Galopin Des Champs starred in the trainer’s Saturday four-timer as he defended his crown in the Irish Gold Cup, ensuring he will be a short price to do the same in the Cheltenham Gold Cup next month.

It is further evidence of the huge strength in depth that Mullins has at his disposal that he won the other three Grade One races on the first day with apparent second, third and even fourth strings.

The champion trainer’s nephew Danny Mullins enjoyed a treble, getting off to a flying start aboard rank outsider Dancing City in the curtain-raising Nathaniel Lacy & Partners Solicitors Novice Hurdle before landing the Spring Juvenile Hurdle and the Irish Arkle on Kargese and Il Etait Temps respectively.

On Sunday the results were a little more predictable, with State Man making it back-to-back wins in the Irish Champion Hurdle, Ballyburn justifying odds-on favouritism in the Tattersalls Ireland 50th Derby Sale Novice Hurdle and El Fabiolo cementing his status as Queen Mother Champion Chase favourite with a clear-cut win in the Dublin Chase.

The only minor upset among the four Mullins winners on day two was Fact To File’s defeat of better-fancied stablemate Gaelic Warrior in the Ladbrokes Novice Chase, with the latter exiting when well held at the final fence.

Mullins added: “You can’t get much better – it’s fantasy horse racing, isn’t it?

“We bring the horses here and as you saw a lot of our second strings won yesterday, it was amazing and Danny had a tremendous day.

“They’re all coming here on their merits for different owners and may the best one win on the day. You don’t know what will happen, look at Gaelic Warrior today – he was many people’s banker for the weekend and was a complete blowout. It’s not simple.”

Much has been made of Mullins’ increasing dominance on the National Hunt scene, with the fact he saddled the only two runners to go to post in the Ladbrokes Novice Chase clearly disappointing.

“It’s unfortunate,” he admitted. “Grangeclare West wasn’t right this morning and we withdrew him, I never dreamt (Gordon Elliott’s) American Mike would come out, I don’t know what happened there.

“It is unfortunate, but we run everything we can anyway. We just aim for these festivals and hope that ours turn up and as you see, they don’t all turn up.

“Yesterday we had a couple of favourites beaten, it’s racing and that’s why you have to come to the races and find out. If I was punting, I’d be losing my tonsils I’d say!”

Asked for a particular highlight, Mullins added: “If I had to name one that stands out it would be Galopin Des Champs.

“He made his own running and then it looked like there was a race on between the second-last and the last, but once he got over the last he was outstanding.”

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