Wednesday, March 09, 2022

IT’S the time of year when Cheltenham Previews dominate the racing world and within them there is common phrase that is used time and time again.

‘Willie Mullins bingo’.

For punters looking to get a step ahead trying to get inside the head of the maestro of Closuttion is a futile pursuit. Mullins has so many different options for his horses that trying to second guess where they will line up at the Cheltenham Festival is near impossible, mainly because very often the man himself doesn’t make up his mind until the very last moment.

These days at the Festival, there are 48 hour declarations, meaning that next Sunday morning he and his team will sit down to make some important decisions. Some are easier than others, one of the biggest revolves around the first race of the week and whether he should aim both Sir Gerhard and Dysart Dynamo at Supreme Novices, or as it more likely split them up and send one to the Ballymore on Wednesday, but which horse might go where is still anybody’s guess.

Where Sir Gerhard races at the Cheltenham Festival is still up in the air
Photo: ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy

“I usually cook breakfast on a Sunday morning, that’s when I earn my brownie points, and that has to be done before we sit down to decide on declarations. After that, it’s mental, it really is,” said Mullins.

How any racing fan would love to be a fly on the wall as Mullins gathers with his trusted lieutenants, his son Patrick, David Casey, Ruby Walsh and Paul Townend, to make their calls.

“We’d have a good debate about what might go where and the rider’s input would be huge because he’s got to ride the horse. David and Patrick know how they are at home, what might suit and then Ruby’s knowledge of Cheltenham and the tracks there is big. So, we put the whole lot in. I think the last few years it’s a lot better because I have more of a team around me whereas one time it was maybe just myself and Ruby.

“It’s a bit quicker now, we declare a lot earlier these days, it’s not as bad as it used to be,” said Mullins.

Whatever decisions are made there will be those who question their wisdom but Mullins is often left perplexed by some of the criticism.

“Sometimes I hear people ask ‘why would he think that’ and I’m thinking ‘why would they think the other’. That’s the way it is. I have things in my own mind and the next thing I’ll hear or read something in the press saying it’s so obvious that this horse will go to this race and I’m thinking ‘where did he come up with that?’

After many years of experience, Mullins often trusts his gut instinct but is always willing to listen to the opinion of those who he trusts most.

“Some years you make the right decision and some years you make the wrong decision. You can only go with your own gut feeling, or whoever puts up the biggest argument.

“Sometimes I’ll have my own mind made up on a horse and I’ll listen to everybody and just go that way, so maybe I’m not a great listener. But I do listen, and if somebody comes up with a really good reason why it could be better then I will take it. The two different tracks in Cheltenham sometimes sway us from one race to another. A lot of times it depends on where my jockey can ride and in which race. Who can ride can make a big difference for me,” said Mullins.

Supporters and punters wait with bated breath for the white smoke to emerge from Closutton on Sunday and those decisions could be some of the most discussed topics of the Festival.


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