It has been quite the week for announcements in horse racing. First came the surprising news that jockey David Mullins decided to call it a day. Then trainer Robert Walford announced that dual Becher Chase winner has also been retired.
So what prompted the decisions? Given that David Mullins is just a young man at 24-years-old, it seemed very young to hang up the saddle. But by his own admission, the buzz had gone and so had the hunger.
Speaking to Racing TV he said: “It just didn’t fit with what I wanted to do anymore, but racing is a tough game to get out of, and I’ve been trying for the last year to 18 months.”
David Mullins Racing Career
He rode 44 winners during his best ever season in 2016-2017 and has a total of 211 winners to his name in Ireland. He won four Grade 1s in 2018, and among them were victories on Al Boum Photo in the 2018 Ryanair Gold Cup at Fairyhouse and Faugheen in the Champion Stayers Hurdle at Punchestown.
Most of us are familiar with David Mullins, not only because he is a great jockey but for that sunny day in April 2016 when he rode Rule The World to victory in the Grand National. A highlight in his career, he was also quick to point out how quickly the spotlight fades.
“I think 600 million people watch the Grand National. My next ride was the following Friday at half eight at night in Ballinrobe. I think he was 25-1. He pulled up.
“I don’t think there were too many people watching that. You’re not competing at the same level the whole time. You’re only seeing the good days, the big days.”
Of course, his retirement does affect those around him, not least his father and Tom, and uncle Willie for whom he frequently rides.
He rode more than 300 times for Willie, including nine Grade 1s. While clearly disappointed, Willie Mullins did back his nephew’s decision to retire.
Speaking to the Racing Post he said: “From an early stage, David showed me that he rode with natural instinct.
“David was a gifted rider. He had very good hands and rode with pure natural instinct.
“It was a great decision by David to retire. He obviously thought long and hard about it and had a great career.”
The Future For David Mullins
Given that he was born into a racing dynasty, it’s not a surprise that David Mullins wants to stay in the game. Just not as a jockey. His passion now seems to be aimed at the sales.
He said: “I love the sales and I really enjoy going to Goffs or Tatts and buying and selling horses.
“I like judging horses and trying to figure out what they might make. I’d be keeping an eye on that all the time.”
Mullins has a few horses already and bought Court Maid for just €1,800. She has now won eight times and her earnings have topped £144K. So clearly he has a good eye.
He said: “The buying and selling of horses is something I would definitely hope to get more involved in. I get as much of a buzz out of that as I did riding winners.”
Walk In The Mill Retired
It was with a heavy heart that trainer Robert Walford announced that Walk In The Mill was to be retired. Best know for winning the Becher Chase twice in 2018 and 2019, he had been aiming for a hattrick in 2020 before a nasty fall took him out of contention.
It was that race that gave connections pause for thought. But when he pulled up at Warwick last time out on January 16th, they knew it was time.
With six wins and eight places from 27 chase starts, Walk In The Mill earned over £300K for connections. He certainly doesn’t owe anyone anything.
Walford said: “He’s sound and happy, which is the main thing, but he just doesn’t want to race.
“He’s done more for us than we can ever have dreamed of and he’s exceeded any expectations we may have had.
“I suppose winning the first of his Bechers was his greatest achievement as we didn’t expect him to win that day.”
Walk In The Mill also put in a stellar performance in the 2019 Grand National, finishing fourth behind Tiger Roll. So what now for the 11-year-old?
He is owned by Baroness Harding who serves as chairwoman of NHS Improvement. He will go to her and spend his retirement in the lap of luxury for what we all hope is a very long time.