It’s Willie Mullins’s racing world, and we’re all just living in it.
You’d envy the trainers trying to take the Closutton legend on these days. Time and time again he has swept through the big festivals and completely overwhelmed his opposition.
A record 10 winners at Cheltenham last year, 14 at Punchestown and 13 at Leopardstown over Christmas.
His main rival Gordon Elliott had a fine Christmas period himself, winning the Savills Chase with Conflated, but any hopes he had of making a run for the trainers’ championship was more or less extinguished by Mullins.
He took six of the eight Grade 1s at Leopardstown last week which astonishingly took his Grade 1 total to 24 in Ireland for 2022. That is a 65% strike rate. When you broaden it to Britain, that figure only drops to 40%.
Such dominance is unprecedented and it seems like this will be the case for the foreseeable, because the conveyor belt of potential at Closutton keeps rolling. Take last week’s Grade 1 Matheson Hurdle for example.
The Mullins-trained nine-year-old Sharjah was going for a record five wins in the race, but he was usurped by his own younger stablemates the five-year-old State Man and four-year-old Vauban (both a year older since the turning of the year).
Mullins is often providing his own opposition. That in itself is not a positive thing in sport. Competition is key to engage people to take an interest. While nothing is held back on the track, Willie Mullins versus Willie Mullins isn’t an inspiring story line for the casual fan.
Yet there is very little to be done about it. Mullins has a huge client base of owners from home and abroad, and he even managed to attract the often unshakable Michael O’Leary back to his yard - that owner having dramatically taken all of his horses out of Closutton in 2016.
He already has half of the favourites for the Cheltenham Festival and you wouldn’t bet against him equalling or breaking the record he set last year.