Past Winners » Willie Mullins


I have been wanting to back Willie Mullins for a while now to be top trainer at the meeting. He was 3/1 when betting opened, but that was just with one firm. That was obviously way too big, but more firms are betting on the market now, and the top price of 15/8 that four of them are quoting is still way too big in my book.

Realistically, only three trainers have the depth of talent to win this title: Mullins, Nicky Henderson and Paul Nicholls, and even the strength of the Nicholls team falls a long way short of the strength of the Henderson and Mullins teams.

It is easy to understand why Nicky Henderson is favourite. If you look at the top races, he has Sprinter Sacre, who is just about gone by in the Champion Chase, he has Simonsig, an odds-on shot for the Arkle, and he has My Tent Or Yours, no better than 7/4 for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. Then he has Bobs Worth (favourite) and Long Run for the Gold Cup, Grandouet and Binocular for the Champion Hurdle, Captain Conan (favourite) for the Jewson, Rolling Star for the Triumph Hurdle and Oscar Whisky (favourite) for the World Hurdle. Of course, at first glance, he has to be favourite.

However, Willie Mullins isn’t faring too badly in the big races. Quevega, Pont Alexandre, Hurricane Fly, Back In Focus, Boston Bob, Aupcharlie, Ballycasey and Sir Des Champs are all either favourite or second favourite for their respective targets. Okay, so some of the races for which they are well-fancied are not as high-profile as the Champion Chase or the Arkle or the World Hurdle, but they are still Cheltenham Festival races, and that is the key.

More than that, however, Mullins has more strength in-depth. In the novice hurdling division, for example, as well as Pont Alexandre and Ballycasey, he also has Un Atout, Pique Sous, Mozoltov, Diakali, Champagne Fever and Annie Power, if he chooses to send her. In the novice chasing division, as well as Boston Bob and Aupcharlie, he also has Back In Focus, Vesper Bell and Arvika Ligeonniere. In the handicaps he has Uncle Junior, Tennis Cap, Inish Island, Abbey Lane, possibly Lambro, Call The Police, Sweet My Lord, Fatcatinthehat and Dogora. Clondaw Court, Sizing Tennessee and Union Dues for the Bumper. It is a massively strong team.

I did an analysis of sorts – insofar as you can do an exercise on this type of thing – on the expected value of each trainer’s number of winners at the Festival based on best odds available at present. It wasn’t scientific, and you had to make a couple of very dodgy assumptions on horses’ targets, but at least it gives us a steer. I came up with 3.64 for Nicky Henderson and 4.13 for Willie Mullins. All things being equal, and given normal luck in the lead up to the Festival, Mullins should be clear favourite for this award, and he is worth a decent bet at 15/8. In my book, he is actually worth backing at anything better than even money.