When you dedicate an entire website to what is arguably one of the greatest horse races in the world, it would be remiss to overlook the astounding achievements of one of Ireland’s greatest trainers. I am, of course, talking about the legendary Willie Mullins.

It is the name that inspires fear in the hearts of every bookmaker, with rival trainers even conceding defeat before a race has even begun, even if it is in jest.

Such is the magnitude of his business that he has managed to achieve what no other Irish trainer has since Vincent O’Brien all the way back in 1954 – won the British jump racing Trainers Championship.

It is a remarkable feat and one that really only became a possibility at the Cheltenham Festival for which many fans with horse racing betting strategies were thrilled with as they just kept backing anything Mullins put out.

So how did he do it, and what does this mean for horse racing, both in the UK and in general?

The Early Years

The success of the Mullins operation doesn’t begin and end with the man himself.

Born into a family already deeply rooted in horse racing, his father, Paddy Mullins, was also a well-respected trainer, best known for training Dawn Run, the only horse to have won both the Champion Hurdle and the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Paddy and his wife Maureen had five children – Willie, Tom, Tony, and George, and their daughter Sandra. And over the course of 70 years they weaved a horse racing dynasty in Ireland.

When Maureen, the great Matriarch of the family, passed away in February 2024, she left behind a remarkable legacy in the racing industry.

Aside from her champion trainer son Willie, Tony is a former champion jockey, her grandson Patrick is a record-breaking amateur rider, grandson Danny is a multiple Grade 1-winning jockey, grandson David won the Grand National riding Rule The World in 2016 on his first attempt, and grandson Emmet won the Grand National as trainer with Noble Yeats.

It is simply astonishing how successful the family has been, and for Willie Mullins, it all began when he became an amateur jockey.

Following six championship titles, he worked as an assistant to his father, Paddy Mullins, and Jim Bolger before going out on his own as a trainer.

He won his first race as a trainer in 1988 with a horse named Thyestes Chase at Gowran Park. And the rest, as they say, is history.

2024 Cheltenham

By any stretch of the imagination, Willie Mullins has had an unforgettable season, and the race for the British trainer’s title began in earnest at the Cheltenham Festival.

Some would argue that Nicky Henderson’s bad luck in not being able to saddle his most promising runners contributed to Mullins’s success.

However, you still have to have the caliber of the horse to win the big races, and that is what Mullins has in spades.

His nine festival winners in 2024 were:

  • The Gold Cup – Galopin Des Champs
  • Champion Hurdle – State Man
  • The Arkle – Gaelic Warrior
  • Mares Hurdle – Lossiemouth
  • Novice’s Hurdle – Ballyburn
  • Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase – Fact To File
  • Champion Bumper – Jasmin De Vaux
  • Triumph Hurdle – Majborough
  • County Handicap Hurdle – Absurde

When you take into account the dozens of horses that placed, Mullins walked away from Cheltenham with earnings of over £1.1 million.

Suddenly, he was in contention for the British Trainers title.

Willie Mullins & The Grand National

Next up was the Grand National, and with 13 entries, eight of which he saddled on the day, the stage was set.

With a reduced field, improving ground, and almost 25% of the runners, the Mullins camp was primed for another victory, and they got it in the form of I Am Maximus, the joint favourite on the day.

Owned by JP McManus and ridden by Paul Townend, the win from I Am Maximus added another half million to the coffers, at which point Willie Mullins, recognising what was at stake, threw everything at the remainder of the UK jumps season.

Ayr and the Scottish Grand National was up next with Mullins, once again, fielding a substantial team of six runners from the 26 that ran.

Yet again, the strategy paid off as Macdermott, ridden by nephew Danny Mullins, romped to victory.

He left Scotland £181,632 ahead of his nearest rival, Dan Skelton so all roads then led to Sandown.

Taking It To The Wire

On a day that officially marks the end of the jumps season in the UK, seven races stood between either Mullins or Skelton winning the championship.

But Skelton left empty-handed, and with wins in both the Sandown Gold Cup with Minella Cocooner and the Select Hurdle with Impaire Et Passe, Willie Mullins had done it.

Of course, the other trainers were gracious in defeat, though you do have to feel sorry for Skelton, who had finally managed to usurp Paul Nicholls in the standings, only to be pipped to the post on the last day.

He will be back and, with any good luck, will also take his turn on the winner’s podium.

But for 2024, the glory belongs to Willie Mullins. With a record 100 wins at Cheltenham, another Gold Cup, the Aintree Grand National, the Scottish Grand National, and the Sandown Gold Cup, it has been a fairytale year.

Can he do it again in 2025? With the incredible depth and breadth of talent at his yard – both human and equine, he does look pretty unstoppable.

But anything can and does happen in racing, so for now, I’m sure he’ll toast a glass to another wonderful season before getting right back to work to plan for the next.