Thursday 29 September 2016

No journey too far for Mullins in push for UK trainers' crown

Michael Verney

Published 12/04/2016 | 02:30

Trainer Willie Mullins, left, with jockey Ruby Walsh in the winners' enclosure last month after winning the Trull House Stud Mares Novices' Hurdle with Limini at Prestbury Park. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Trainer Willie Mullins, left, with jockey Ruby Walsh in the winners' enclosure last month after winning the Trull House Stud Mares Novices' Hurdle with Limini at Prestbury Park. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Willie Mullins will leave no stone unturned in his remarkable bid to follow in the footsteps of the legendary Vincent O'Brien by winning the British National Hunt champion trainers' crown.

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The Closutton maestro leapfrogged Paul Nicholls to lead the standings after a magnificent haul of six winners, as well as a host of placed horses, at Aintree last week and holds an advantage of £182,986 before today's racing.

Nicholls, who has won nine out of the last ten championships, drew a blank at Liverpool and is heavily targeting big meetings like Ayr, Perth and Sandown in an effort to retain his title.

He won't be alone, however, as Mullins has vowed, with the assistance of his owners, to aim a formidable string at races which were not previously on his radar.

"Planning is in overdrive and we're looking at meetings we never looked at before but the big meetings are still the ones where the major prize money is, namely Ayr, Perth and Sandown," he said.

travel

"Our main goal would be to pick the right horses to travel to those tracks. We have a few nice horses still left to travel and if we can pick up some money here and there it keeps the advantage up.

"My owners have very kindly supported me and said, 'You know, you're challenging across the water and if you feel the horses are up to the task then go' and it's great to get the support."

Mullins admits the thoughts of winning the British title wasn't something he dreamed possible, but he knows there are many big hurdles to jump if he is to bridge a gap stretching back to O'Brien in the 1953/'54 season.

The Scottish Grand National has a prize fund of £210,000 while the Scottish Champion Hurdle prize money is just over £100,000, and Nicholls will not give in without an almighty fight.

"It's all to play for," Mullins said. "And I'm sure knowing how competitive Paul is, he'll try until the last race in Sandown."

Irish Independent

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