Mullins praises rival Elliott as 12th trainers' title is secured
Willie Mullins believes the emergence of Gordon Elliott and their titanic battle for the Irish trainers' championship has forced him to raise the bar as he secured his 12th title at Punchestown yesterday.
Eleven titles in succession is a remarkable feat for the Closutton maestro, who further cemented his place among the pantheon of greats to hold an unassailable €541,148 lead.
It has been an extraordinary Festival for Mullins with 14 winners in the past four days, but he was quick to pay tribute to his sparring partner Elliott.
"I'm pleased to win but I don't take any pleasure from beating Gordon because he is such a great competitor and I know how he'll be feeling. I have a great team of owners and I have magnificent staff but having great opposition is what raises the bar for everyone," Mullins said.
Elliott led Mullins by €521,414 heading into the Punchestown Festival but Samcro's Champion Hurdle fall ruined any slim chance to turn the tables and he was magnanimous in defeat.
"It just shows his strength and what he can do, to be somewhere near him is brilliant. We just have to start again Sunday and keep smiling and keep kicking," Elliott said.
"I'm disappointed that I didn't win because if you don't want to be champion trainer, you shouldn't be training. I'm only 40 and hopefully some day I might be able to do it.
"It'll take us a couple of years. You need the older horses, the hardened, graded horses. Willie is finishing 1-2-3 in those big races. That's what I need to do."