25 March 2024

Willie Mullins full of admiration for Paul Townend as focus turns to Fairyhouse

25 March 2024

In the wake of the Cheltenham Festival and with thoughts turning to Fairyhouse, Willie Mullins has lavished praise on Paul Townend as their association goes from strength to strength.

If anyone questioned whether Townend was the right man to replace Ruby Walsh when Mullins’ former number one called it quits at the Punchestown Festival in 2019, the champion trainer was certainly not one of them.

Townend rode six of Mullins’ nine Cheltenham winners – five of them coming at Grade One level, while his other winner, Absurde in the County Hurdle, was lauded as the ride of the week.

Galopin Des Champs’ second Gold Cup win means Townend has won four of the last six renewals and now his sights are switched to winning another Boylesports Irish Grand National on Easter Monday.

His ride on last year’s winner I Am Maximus also earned plenty of plaudits, none bigger than from Mullins himself.

“I thought Paul was going to pull him up, but when he pulled him to the outside he started to gallop a bit better. Undoubtedly it was some ride,” said Mullins.

“Paul was thinking on his feet the whole way and to get that performance out of that horse after the performance he put in for the first two miles was extraordinary horsemanship.

“Paul was a real jockey in Cheltenham winning on Galopin Des Champs last year, but then he showed what a real horseman he is when he came back to Fairyhouse, putting in that performance was what I call horsemanship.

“I never thought about it when Ruby retired. To me Paul was always going to be his replacement because he’d been second jockey to Ruby for however many years.

“Any time Ruby went to England or was injured Paul stepped into his shoes and we never had any problems. I was actually surprised at the time that the press were wondering if he would take over, it never crossed my mind.

“Paul probably felt the pressure a little in the early days as he did say to me about six months after he took over could he have his old job back because he was after picking the wrong one at Punchestown a couple of times, it’s much easier to ride as second jockey all right.

“But I had full confidence in him, I always had. He has a totally different style of riding to Ruby and you have to get used to it, but I’d been used to it for years. I’m happy with how he does it and for everyone the winners keep coming.”

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