Even after all these years, Willie Mullins continues to dominate National Hunt racing on both sides of the Irish Sea.
His latest round of success came at the Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown, where Mullins trained horses were once again at the business end of the action.
Cheltenham Festival punters will have been watching closely as Kemboy romped home in the Irish Gold Cup, leaving the likes of Delta Work and Minella Indo in the shade, while Monkfish elevated his Festival Novices’ Chase claims with a comfortable victory in the Flogas Novice Chase in Dublin.
Elsewhere Grangee, Appreciate It and Maze Runner were also in the winners’ enclosure, meaning that Mullins oversaw victories in nine of the meeting’s 15 races and four of the six Grade One renewals contested.
The Kilkenny trainer is in fine form then ahead of another assault on Cheltenham, where of course many of the finest triumphs of his career have come. Given that he’s saddled hundreds of winners worldwide, this is no mean feat but we have scoured through the collection to find the best wins of Willie Mullins’ career to date.
Let’s face it: there weren’t many dour days when Mullins was watching Douvan go through his paces.
Fourteen wins from seventeen starts only tells half of the story for the incredible hurdler, who was simply unstoppable on both sides of the Irish Sea.
His win in the Champion Novice Hurdle at Punchestown was one of his most eye-catching wins – he downed a Cheltenham Gold Cup winner in Sizing John by seven lengths there, and his triumph in the Maghull Novices’ Chase by 14 lengths was one of the easiest.
The Supreme Novices’ Hurdle win of 2015 is the one arguably best remembered by punters, but did Douvan ever run better than in the 2016 edition of the Paddy Power Cashcard Chase at Leopardstown?
Faced with a quality field (Sizing John, Simply Ned, Black Hercules), Douvan completed the perfect six-from-six season in fitting style, romping home with gas to spare with Ruby Walsh on board.
While never the same again thereafter, that was a fine end to the winning run of arguably the best horse Mullins has ever laid his hands on.
It was an absolute tragedy that Vautour had to be put down after suffering a freak accident in the paddock.
He’s a horse that Mullins claimed never fulfilled his potential, despite a catalogue of high profile wins and a Timeform rating of 180.
At his peak, this was a powerhouse who sauntered to victory, and his six-length triumph in the Ryanair Chase of 2016 over Valseur Lido was perhaps the pick of a very fine bunch.
Who remembers Vautour winning the @Ryanair Chase with ease in 2016? 🙋♂️
— CheltenhamRacecourse (@CheltenhamRaces) March 14, 2019
Strong wins in the JLT Novices’ Chase and the 1965 Chase left punters wondering how high Vautour could fly before tragedy struck and he sadly died at the age of seven.
On the back of such a long career, it’s easy to forget – what seems like many moons ago – just how good Faugheen was.
He started his career with ten straight wins, and a win at the Cheltenham Festival in just his fifth start was very much a sign of things to come.
Easy victories in the Champion Novice Hurdle, the Coral Hurdle and the Christmas Hurdle duly followed, leading up to arguably the finest hour of Faugheen’s career.
That came in the Champion Hurdle of 2015, when a quality field including Jezki (Champion Hurdle 2014), Hurricane Fly (2x Champion Hurdle winner) and The New One (Aintree Hurdle 2014). But all were laid to waste by Faugheen, who kept on well to land another flagship win for Mullins.
— At The Races (@AtTheRaces) March 10, 2015
While perhaps going under the radar compared to some of Mullins’ higher rated horses, Kemboy has served up a consistent glut of quality performances.
Chief among them has to be his win in the Punchestown Gold Cup of 2019, where despite coming under serious pressure down the closing stretch – including a strong finish from stablemate and Gold Cup winner Al Boum Photo – he clung on in typical Mullins trained fashion.
“Close your eyes and trust him, he knows what he’s doing” – Ruby Walsh has plenty of admiration for the 2019 Coral Punchestown Gold Cup Winner, Kemboy 🏆#PTown19 #PunchestownFestival pic.twitter.com/EFBCQr7orh
— Punchestown (@punchestownrace) May 1, 2019
Annie Power (2016)
A mare that could mix it with the very best of both genders, Annie Power saved her finest run for her penultimate start.
That came in the Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival of 2016, when she outlasted an outstanding field that featured The New One, Nichols Canyon and My Tent or Yours – all proven Grade One campaigners.
But Annie had the Power to close out a four length victory, and to this day she remains arguably the best mare that Mullins has had in training.
What’s your favourite @Ruby_Walsh moment?
There are so many to choose from…
Who remembers this iconic 2016 win in the Champion Hurdle on Annie Power? pic.twitter.com/0DiDLWn4PW
— ITV Racing (@itvracing) May 2, 2019
Al Boum Photo (2019)
For all the silverware in his collection, Willie Mullins went decades without a win in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Would that situation ever be resolved? The jury was out on the 12/1 shot Al Boum Photo in 2019, and even a good way through the race he looked the most unlikely of winners.
But Paul Townend was able to find another gear aboard a horse who had fallen in the RSA Chase 12 months prior, and a late run saw him take the lead – a lead he would never relinquish, leaving Mullins emotional as he finally achieved his destiny in the sport.
⏪It's #ThrowbackThursday time…🏇
— CheltenhamRacecourse (@CheltenhamRaces) July 18, 2019