Things We Learned » The genius of Willie Mullins

The genius of Willie Mullins

It is difficult to pinpoint what makes Willie Mullins so good at this.  Of course, he has the horses now, and he has the owners.  He has the resources to buy the big horses and he has the networks through which to do it.  But none of it would be possible without the ability to train racehorses.

Remember, none of this happened by chance.  Mullins had his first Cheltenham Festival winner in 1995, and – difficult to believe now – as recently as 2006, when there were 10 Irish-trained Cheltenham Festival winners, guess how many were trained by Willie Mullins?  None, that’s how many.

Ruby Walsh speaks of Mullins’ genius, David Casey tells you that he sees things that nobody else can see.  That’s the thing about genius: you can’t explain it, you can’t define it.  It just is.

You can argue that genius is inherited, not learned.

When Vintage Tipple went to The Curragh to do her final piece of work before the 2003 Irish Oaks, Paddy Mullins took a look at her and said, no, that filly doesn’t need to work today.  The team was startled, we’re here, we came to do a piece of work, let’s just do it.  But Paddy Mullins thought no.  He got Robbie Power to just take her for a walk, stretch her legs.  Then he put her back on the box and took her home.

The following Sunday, Vintage Tipple won the Irish Oaks.

We got a bit of an insight into Willie’s mind in his interview on Racing UK after Vautour had won the Ryanair Chase.  Ruby Walsh had already told us that, the horse had been working so poorly, if he was training him he wouldn’t have even taken him to Cheltenham.

Mullins said that he just threw the horse out into the field.  Whatever they were doing, he had reasoned, it wasn’t working, so he tried doing something different: nothing.  He said that he left him out in a field for 10 days, that the first time the horse was in a stable in the last two weeks was when he arrived at Cheltenham.  It’s difficult to explain, just like genius.

Up and down week

There were ups and downs all week.  There were all the Mullins ups, but there was the down of losing Pont Alexandre.  Gordon Elliott had the down of No More Heroes’ defeat, the up of Diamond King’s victory, the down of the loss of No More Heroes, the up of Cause Of Causes’ victory under another serious ride from Jamie Codd, who has now, quite remarkably, won four of the last seven renewals of the Kim Muir.  Then the up of Don Cossack.  Unbelievable.

For Jonjo O’Neill, there was the up of Minella Rocco and the down of Rezorbi all in one day, all in the space of 45 minutes.  Ruby Walsh had the defeat of Min in the curtain-raiser, and it was pretty much up all the way to Friday.  Davy Russell had the up of Diamond King, the down of Zabana, the up of Mall Dini.  Colm Murphy had the down of Sizing Granite, beaten after a bad mistake at the first fence in the Champion Chase, and the up of Empire Of Dirt’s victory in the Plate.  And there were more ups and downs on Friday, no doubt.

The British can now do bumpers too

If we still thought that the Champion Bumper was a gimme, Ballyandy blew that one out of the water.

Nigel Twiston-Davies’ horse only got home by a nose in the end, but it is easy to argue that his superiority was greater than that.  Having held a good position from flagfall, he lost his position quite badly on the run down the hill.  He just got stuck in behind the weakening horses and, from travelling kindly just behind the pace, suddenly he was about 10th and struggling to regain his position.

The fact that he was able to do that early in the home straight, then pick up well enough to join the leaders, then keep on as well as he did out in the centre of the track, away from the favoured stands rail, tells you that he is a horse of significant ability.

Irish/Willie Mullins-trained horses finished second, third and fourth behind the son of Kayf Tara, and all three horses had run in just one bumper before Wednesday.  All three – Battleford, Bacardys and Castello Sforza – should have bright futures.  Even so, that means that, after the Irish had won 14 of the first 17 renewals of the Champion Bumper, the British have now won four of the last seven.

Some week for Kayf Tara

Speaking of Kayf Tara, the Overbury Stud stallion has had a phenomenal week.  Wednesday was a red-letter day, with Blaklion winning the RSA Chase, Ballyandy landing the Champion Bumper and Special Tiara running such a big race to finish third in the Champion Chase.  Then on Thursday, Thistlecrack put the cap on it by dancing away with the World Hurdle.

Quote of the week:

“He’s a dick, i’nhe?!”

– Sam Twiston-Davies upon learning that ‘Nige’ was comparing Ballyandy to Imperial Commander!


© The Irish Field, 19th March 2016