Did Willie Mullins ever ride a winner at the Cheltenham Festival?
Nowadays, Willie Mullins is best known as perennial Irish Champion National Hunt Trainer and, of course, the most successful handler in the history of the Cheltenham Festival, with 72 winners. However, in his earlier years, Mullins was a highly accomplished amateur jockey. In fact, he was Champion Amateur in his native land on six occasions and, in 1983, rode Atha Cliath, trained by his father, Paddy, to victory in the Foxhunters’ Open Hunters’ Chase, over the Grand National fences, at Aintree.
Having worked for his father and Jim Bolger as assistant trainer, Mulllins took out a training licence in his own right, at his yard in Closutton, Co. Carlow, in 1988. However, he continued to ride, even after saddling his first Cheltenham Festival winner, Tourist Attraction, in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in 1995. The following year, at the age of 40, he trained and rode Wither Or Which to win Grade One Champion Bumper, thereby recording his one and only success at the Festival as a jockey. As a trainer, though, Mullins was far from finished with the Champion Bumper, winning the race again in 1997, 1998, 2000, 2005, 2008, 2012, 2013, 2018 and 2020, for a total of 10 wins in all.