11 March 2024

National Hunt Chase promises poignant result for Mullins family

11 March 2024

There could be emotional scenes at Cheltenham if Embassy Gardens were to prevail in the Maureen Mullins National Hunt Chase.

The race is named in honour of the matriarch of the great Irish racing family, who died last month at the age of 94 and whose son Willie trains Embassy Gardens – the mount of grandson Patrick on the opening day of the Festival.

Stattler and Gaillard Du Mesnil have provided the duo with victory in the last two years, while the younger Mullins is the race’s most successful jockey, having first landed the spoils with Back In Focus in 2013 and also scoring aboard Rathvinden six years ago.

This year’s contender was pulled up on his previous visit to Prestbury Park in last year’s Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle, but has thrived since switching to fences this term, winning impressively the last twice.

However, there is a big threat lurking from within the Mullins family, with Emmet Mullins’ Corbetts Cross another Irish raider predicted to play a leading part.

“It was very kind of Cheltenham to name the National Hunt Chase after granny and I think Embassy Gardens is going to have a huge chance,” said Patrick Mullins.

“However, I think my cousin Emmet might have the edge with Corbetts Cross – his form looks that bit stronger, but I guess his prep has not been ideal.

“Hopefully one of us can do it, but I would prefer it if it was me.

“It is a lucky race for us and Jamie Codd has 10 Cheltenham winners, I have eight, so I need another three before I retire to try to pass him. I need to put them away if I can.”

It could be an extra-special week in the Cotswolds for the Mullins family, with the master of Closutton just six away from becoming the first trainer to reach three figures at the Festival.

Patrick Mullins is keen to pay tribute not only to his father but also his grandparents, who provided the template for the all-conquering dynasty that dominates today.

“It’s an incredible landmark and I suppose the expanded Festival is what makes numbers like that possible. But for him to be the first trainer to get to it (100 winners) would be very special,” he added.

“We’re very lucky and we obviously lost my grandmother Maureen recently and herself and grandad built the foundations going back to Dawn Run, and even further back Vulpine and Counsel Cottage. There’s a lot of history and lots to be proud of.”

Since his first Festival triumph with Tourist Attraction in 1995, Willie Mullins has unleashed an array of top equine talent on the Cotswolds and has walked away with the leading trainer award 10 times in the last 13 years.

And although it is a difficult task to pick a highlight, his son feels the day Hurricane Fly regained his Champion Hurdle crown in 2013 may be the greatest of all his father’s accomplishments at the Festival.

He added: “The one that stands out for me is Hurricane Fly regaining his Champion Hurdle. He missed the Supreme and first Champion Hurdle through injury, then he won it.

“When he lost it the following year, he had a bit of an interrupted season, and for him to come back and reclaim the top hurdling crown was a great sense of vindication for a horse of that quality.”

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