Friday 23 February 2018

Legendary Irish trainer Paddy Mullins dies, aged 91

Paddy Mullins. Photo: PA
Paddy Mullins. Photo: PA

Legendary former Irish trainer Paddy Mullins has died at the age of 91.

Mullins, who enjoyed a career spanning 52 years, passed away peacefully at 7am on Thursday morning.

The father of current trainers Tom, Willie and Tony Mullins, he enjoyed huge success on the Flat and over jumps, tasting Classic glory with Vintage Tipple in the 2003 Irish Oaks.

He also saddled Hurry Harriet to win the 1973 Champion Stakes at Newmarket.

Mullins is, however, perhaps best remembered for his exploits with the great mare Dawn Run, who remains the only horse to have won the Champion Hurdle (1984) and the Gold Cup (1986) at the Cheltenham Festival.

Tony Mullins, who was a regular partner for Dawn Run in his riding days, said: "Everyone knows he was a great trainer, but he was an even greater family man.

"He was certainly the greatest family man I ever knew and we all stayed around him and trained within five miles of home.

"The family has always been very unified and he kept it that way all his life.

"He taught us all we know - what ever we know.

"It was a little tough the last couple of days but up until then he had a very good and healthy life.

"It's only seven years since he trained a Classic winner but he always maintained his greatest achievement was training Hurry Harriet to win the 1973 Champion Stakes.

"Vintage Tipple and Dawn Run were two great achievements, but I think Hurry Harriet gave him the biggest thrill of his life."

Mullins' first winner was Flash Parade, who landed the La Touche Cup at Punchestown in April, 1953.

Other notable winners include Galway Plate heroes Nearly A Moose (2003) and Boro Quarter (1986)), while he enjoyed plenty of success at the Cheltenham Festival.

Herring Gull was the trainer's first Festival winner when he landed what is now the RSA Chase in 1968. The same horse won the Irish Grand National that same year.

Counsel Cottage took the Royal & SunAlliance Hurdle in 1977, while Mullins won the National Hunt Chase with Hazy Dawn in 1982 and with Mack's Friendly in 1984, with the latter partnered by his son Willie.

He trained at Goresbridge, County Kilkenny, from where his son, Tom, assumed control when Mullins retired from training in February, 2005.

Mullins is also survived by wife Maureen, whom he married in 1954, daughter Sandra McCarthy, who is also a trainer, and son George, who owns a horse transport business.

George Mullins said: "He was a real family man and always looked after everybody.

"He did everything he could to provide the best for us all.

"He was very proud to win the Champion Stakes but I think maybe his proudest moment was when my mother rode a winner on her one and only ride.

"It was at Gowran Park which was his local racecourse and he really enjoyed that.

"He was 10 times champion trainer and had a number of big achievements.

"He had a great life and was in very good health up until the last three months and he died very peacefully."

Sir Peter O'Sullevan called home Dawn Run on her two big victories at Cheltenham, and considered himself a friend of Mullins.

He said: "The two Cheltenham races were particularly memorable, most spectacularly the Gold Cup.

"He had such a great career and his wife was a wonderful supporter - they were very much a team.

"We were of the same generation, and our paths used to cross regularly.

"We had a strong affection for each other and I had a huge admiration of his talents.

"He had a great innings and certainly left his mark through his talent and through his personality."

Cheltenham managing director Edward Gillespie described Mullins as "a legend".

He said: "Obviously so much of the focus from that would be on Dawn Run winning the Gold Cup in 1986, and the fact is she still remains the only horse ever to have won the Champion Hurdle and the Gold Cup.

"That sets Dawn Run apart and sets Paddy apart from every other trainer.

"You can look at the achievements of all the great trainers like Vincent O'Brien, Michael Dickinson and Fred Winter, but only one person has ever trained the same horse to win those two races.

"Dawn Run was actually his last ever Festival winner and that was something we talked about a lot.

"He still kept coming back here with not only runners, but he also came back just to be part of the Festival.

"He was so much part of what makes Cheltenham special and a lot of people loved seeing him.

"Paddy was a really good friend of mine and he was just a wonderful person.

"It's a very sad day and we should be thankful that he achieved something that nobody has got near to achieving.

"He will be remembered at Cheltenham for as long as there is steeplechasing."

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