Racing is a sport, maybe more than any other, that is rich with family dynasties. Generation after generation sees success both riding the horses and training them.
One of the most famous of these is the Mullins family, represented in the world of racehorse training by the so-called King of Closutton, Willie Mullins. Son of the legendary Paddy Mullins, before switching to training back in 1988, he had enjoyed quite some success as a jockey with six amateur championship wins over his career.
Notable race victories included the 1983 Fox Hunters’ Chase at Aintree in 1983 and the Cheltenham Bumper in 1996 when he was already well into his training career.
This season has been a particularly momentous one for Mullins with a record-breaking 10 winners at the Cheltenham festival. This smashed the previous record he shared with Gordon Elliot of eight in a year and has earned him a place in the course’s Hall of Fame.
So, hopes are very high that this could also be a year when he could make his mark at Aintree again as a trainer when the world’s richest and most famous steeplechase takes place on Saturday April 9th this year.
The One They All Want To Win
Racing purists may not regard the Grand National as the greatest event in terms of the quality of the racing. It’s no Gold Cup or King George the VI Chase in which the very best horses can shine.
But it’s a race that has such a grip on the imagination that it really is the one that all jockeys and trainers want to win.
This is easier said than done with a large field of up to 40 horses, 4 miles and 21/2 punishing furlongs to negotiate, not to mention 30 fences.
It’s also a favourite amongst punters who want to boast that they backed the horse that won the Grand National.
In fact, many bookies have their Grand National offers available months in advance of the event for punters to place an ante-post bet to get the Grand National discussions going of who is going to be the favourite this year.
With so much excitement, if there wasn’t £1 million in prize money up for grabs, owners and trainers would probably enter their horses just for the prestige of winning.
It’s also a race where legends are made, from Bob Champion racing to victory on Aldaniti in 1981 to Rachael Blackmore being the first woman jockey to win on board Minella Times last year.
Mullins’ Track Record At Aintree
While his huge success at Cheltenham the year has meant that Mullins is well-placed to become trainer of the year, it may be a victory at Aintree that would give him the biggest pleasure.
He’s tasted success before, but that was 17 years ago when his horse Hedgehunter ran to victory with Ruby Walsh riding. Incidentally, this was one of the relatively rare years in which the favourite won, that time at 7/1.
The sheer unpredictability of the race is underlined by the fact that so many trainers have won it over the years. But, looking at recent times, two names do stand out, Gordon Elliott and Henry de Bromhead.
In 2018 and 2019 Elliott became one of the very few trainers to enjoy victory with the same horse two years running with Tiger Roll and last year it was de Bromhead who trained Minella Times – another strong contender this year.
By sheer weight of numbers, it seems like Elliott has the best chance of claiming another National win with no less than 8 horses set to compete. So, on statistical grounds at least, he must have a 25% chance of winning.
So Who’s Running For Mullins?
That’s not to say that we can write off Mullins’ chances of success at Aintree. He’s already declared that if any of his horse do pass the finish line first, it’s most likely to be Burrows Saint.
The current Grand National odds it seems likely that he’ll set off at about 20/1, maybe a lot less favoured than favourites Delta Work and Any Second Now at 9/1, but still in with a very good chance.
After all, this is also a horse that finished a very creditable 4th in last year’s race and is likely to also be ridden by Mullins’ son Patrick.
Last year the horse seemed to just lose a little bit of steam in the final run-in but, with another year’s racing experience, the 9-year-old would certainly be good for an each-way bet.
At 66/1 Brahma Bull may be a little more of a long-shot but could still surprise us all. Placed in all four of its first races this season it was pulled up and unseated its rider in its two most recent outings.
At its best when the going is good, if it’s a relatively dry week leading up to the race, then it could produce a good performance.
At the same odds, Class Conti, promises to be carrying one of the lighter weights in the race and should certainly be able to improve on the 15th place the 10 year-old managed last year.
If the 173 runnings of the Grand National to date have shown us anything, it’s that even horses with the longest of odds can win.
Who can forget 2009 when Liam Treadwell guided Mon Mone to an unlikely 100/1 victory? Going further back, this was also a feat achieved by John Buckingham on Foinavon in 1967.
There are plenty more examples of horses at 33/1 or more running to victory so it’s more than possible that a Mullins-trained horse could be entering the winner’s enclosure on April 9th.
And there are many people hoping this will indeed be the case.