Horse Racing

Racing Roundup: Willie Mullins makes history as he becomes first Irishman to be top trainer in the UK in 70 years

Vincent O’Brien was the last Irish trainer to receive the prestigious title in 1954, with Mullins beating the likes of Paul Nicholls and Dan Skelton.

The final jumps meeting of the season saw a dramatic climax to the race for the trainers’ championship between 14-time champion trainer Paul Nicholls, his former assistant Dan Skelton and champion Irish trainer Willie Mullins.

The Irishman came into the week having a successful April winning the Grand National at Aintree, Scottish Grand National at Ayr and first successes in midweek at Ludlow and Perth.

The highlight of the day came in the Grade One Celebration Chase as Jonbon and El Fabiolo met for the first time since the 2023 Arkle at the Cheltenham Festival 13 months ago.

El Fabiolo was pulled up due to lacklustre jumping in this year’s Champion Chase at Cheltenham, whilst Jonbon was coming off the back of a win at Aintree after missing the Festival.

It was clear that Jonbon suited Sandown better than El Fabiolo, when Jonbon opened a lead of four lengths down the backstraight and El Fabiolo couldn’t close the gap.

However, it was redemption for Mullins as Minella Cocooner won the big handicap of the day, the bet365 Gold Cup.

Over the marathon trip of three-and-a-half miles, Annual Invictus for Chris and Freddie Gordon looked to win the race from pillar to post.

However, it was another family relation as nephew Danny Mullins sidled up to Annual Invictus and just managed to pass the long-time leader on the line, sealing the trainers’ championship for Willie Mullins with only his 27th winner over the Irish Sea.

Further was the feat hammered home as Impaire Et Passe won the Select Hurdle, facing familiar foe Langer Dan who he beat in a head bob at Aintree.

However, there was no need for a stewards’ enquiry this time around as Impaire Et Passe won by two-and-a-quarter lengths.

Willie Mullins now becomes only the second Irish trainer to win the British Trainers’ Championship.

Vincent O’Brien was the last Irish trainer to complete the feat back in 1954, who trained legendary horses such as Cottage Rake and Hatton’s Grace who both won major prizes at Cheltenham.

O’Brien also trainer three Grand National winners, with Mullins not far behind on two.

Speaking after El Fabiolo’s second in the Celebration Chase, which clinched Mullins the title, he spoke of his incredible achievement;

‘What can I say? It’s been a fantastic year and all of my owners said whatever you need to take to Britain take it, which is tremendous. You can’t ask for anything more than the owners and staff we have. When you start off with the right people, the horses will come.

‘Vincent O’Brien is the legend of the game. For me to do something only he has is extraordinary and something we never even thought of or could comprehend doing. We’re all delighted and everyone at Closutton is very happy.’

Former champion and stable jockey to Willie Mullins, Ruby Walsh, spoke to RacingTV about this momentous achievement and simply put; ‘I think he is somebody people should aspire to be.’

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