Cheltenham rewind: Willie Mullins’ masterclass in 2021

The master of Closutton saddled six winners at last year’s Cheltenham Festival, not only making him the leading trainer, but also ensuring that Willie Mullins boosted his overall total to 78 wins at the iconic Prestbury Park meeting. Looking ahead to the Festival later this month, you simply cannot look beyond him to succeed again – with the horse race betting odds firmly in his favour.

Read on as we take a look at where it all went right last year, and we’ll take a look at some of his biggest hopefuls at the 2022 Cheltenham Festival.

Supreme Novices’ Hurdle: Appreciate It

The favourite didn’t disappoint on opening day, in the meeting’s curtain raiser. A winning start and another Grade 1 success for Mullins, as the 8/11 market leader Appreciate It, ridden by Paul Townend, charged to victory. It was only at the penultimate hurdle that Appreciate It took the lead, and from there, his dominance was evident – pulling away from the opposition to land a 24-length victory, with stablemate Blue Lord falling at the last.

Festival Novices’ Chase: Monkfish

Another favourite (1/4), and another win for the jockey-trainer duo of Townend and Mullins – this time on day two of the Festival. Monkfish had led from three out, and while he blundered the final fence, had already accumulated quite a lead and held on to finish six and a half lengths clear from Colin Tizzard’s Fiddlerontheroof. Sadly, last year, Monkfish suffered an injury which ruled him out of the season – and Mullins had hoped to enter him into the Gold Cup.

Champion Bumper: Sir Gerhard

Sir Gerhard had moved from Gordon Elliott’s County Meath yard over to Mullins’ stables, amidst the controversy that ensued last year. And it was very much the Closutton trainer’s gain, as Sir Gerhard landed him his third win of the 2021 Festival. Going out at odds of 85/40, the gelding, ridden by Rachael Blackmore, beat stablemate Kilcruit by half a length. It was an exciting finish, that saw Sir Gerhard’s lead dramatically cut in the final furlong, but he held on.

Ryanair Chase: Allaho

Mullins had dominated the race card, with no fewer than four entries and it was Allaho – the 3/1 favourite ahead of the Ryanair Chase – who duly delivered. Another Grade 1 victory, with jockey Blackmore in the saddle. Having led from the third fence, Allaho built up on unassailable lead, and despite being shaken up when two out, managed to hold on to a 12-length victory – with Mullins’ Tornado Flyer also placing, in third.

Mrs Paddy Power Mares’ Chase: Colreevy

It was a 1-2 for Mullins as both Colreevy and the favourite, Elimay battled it out for supremacy in the Mares’ Chase. It was the inaugural running of the race on day four of the Festival, and both mares were up for it – offering a pulsating duel and a fight to the finish. With the rest of the chasing pack barely in contention, it was basically the Mullins show, with Colreevy edging it by half a length.

Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle: Galopin Des Champs

At 8/1, Galopin Des Champs was one of Mullins’ lesser-fancied winners, but he defied the odds to win the Festival’s final race, and land Mullins the leading trainer award. Galopin Des Champs was always travelling well, with Sean O’Keeffe in the saddle, and the duo took the lead ahead of the final hurdle – securing a debut win for the jockey. It was Mullins’ sixth victory at the Festival, and while he was level with Henry de Bromhead, edged it due to more of his horses placing.

Looking ahead to the Festival later this month, some of Mullins’ chances of success lie with:

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