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Racing pays homage to Paddy Mullins

Jonjo O'Neill and Frankie Dettori led the tributes following the death of legendary Irish trainer Paddy Mullins.

Mullins passed away peacefully, aged 91, at 7am on Thursday morning.

He is best remembered for training Dawn Run to win the Champion Hurdle (1984) and the Gold Cup (1986) at the Cheltenham Festival, a feat which has yet to be matched.

"It's a sad day," said O'Neill, who rode the brilliant mare in both races.

"He was a very nice man, but a very quiet man. He didn't say a lot but when he spoke you listened and took notice.

"He was a unique man and he loved horses and knew everything about the game, inside out."

Of Dawn Run, O'Neill added: "He knew everything about her.

"He knew how she was thinking, knew how she was going to run, and knew exactly how to get the best out of her at the right time.

"I was proud to have been associated with him."

Mullins enjoyed a career spanning 52 years and is father to current trainers Tom, Willie, and Tony Mullins.

He also enjoyed huge success on the Flat, tasting Classic glory with the Dettori-ridden Vintage Tipple in the 2003 Irish Oaks.

"I actually stumbled upon the ride as Johnny Murtagh couldn't ride her," recalled Dettori.

"Obviously I had heard of Paddy, but I had never met him until the day.

"He had a great aura about him and he didn't give me any instructions. He said I'd been riding horses all my life and left it to me.

"He got an amazing reception after the race as he was a legend and was loved by the Irish racing public.

"I was very blessed to be part of that day and to have met such a legend.

"I was only around 15 or 16 when Dawn Run won the Gold Cup but I remember I had tears in my eyes when she came up the hill in front.

"Paddy was a true giant of the sport and my thoughts go to all his family."

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

Tony Mullins, who was a regular partner for Dawn Run in his riding days, believes that 33-1 success was his father's proudest achievement.

"Everyone knows he was a great trainer, but he was an even greater family man," he said.

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

"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."

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

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, 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 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."

Other notable winners included Galway Plate heroes Nearly A Moose (2003) and Boro Quarter (1986).

Herring Gull was the trainer's first Cheltenham Festival scorer when he landed what is now the RSA Chase in 1968. The same horse won the Irish Grand National, a race claimed by Mullins four times, that same year.

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

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

He said: "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."

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

He said: "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."

Brian Kavanagh, chief executive of Horse Racing Ireland, added: "From the winner he trained in 1953 until he retired from the training ranks in 2005, the performances of his horses on the track spoke loudly of the talents of the quiet man of Irish racing over a span of more than fifty years."

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