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Few feats capture the imagination in such a way that people would don face masks of a trainer’s likeness, but Willie Mullins has achieved no ordinary feat, writes Elise Hamersley.

The fan club huddled behind the Closutton man as he lifted the trophy that cemented his status as the first Irish-based trainer in 70 years to be crowned British jump trainers championship, an achievement that topped even his lofty standards.

Despite entering the British jumps finale at Sandown Park having all but secured the title, the Irish champion trainer left nothing to chance with nine runners on the card.


Celebration Chase favourite El Fabiolo could not quite avenge being pulled up at Cheltenham but the runner-up prize was enough to seal the deal against Dan Skelton.

“It’s extraordinary,” said Mullins. “The legend of the game Vincent O’Brien did it 70 years ago and no one ever dreamt that anyone would do it again and here we are.

“I don’t know how to feel, it certainly has meant everything to me.

“It has to be better than any [other achievement] because to win the two championships in one year was something we never thought could be done and we never dreamed of doing until a few years ago.”

The British trainers’ title is the culmination of a stellar season for Mullins, whose sights were first set on the achievement after an impressive nine wins at Cheltenham including the Gold Cup with Galopin Des Champs and Champion Hurdle with State Man.

I Am Maximus’ Grand National triumph at Aintree further launched the Irish assault leaving Danny Mullins and Macdermott to bring home the Scottish Grand National in Ayr last weekend.

“After Cheltenham, we were within three-quarters of a million and looking at the Grand National and I thought ‘wow we have a great team’,” said Mullins. “Every meeting I’ve come to [in the UK] all season in the autumn, winter and spring it’s just been people welcoming me over, thanking me for bringing such nice horses over.

“I’ve been bowled over by the amount of goodwill I’ve had from the racing fraternity in England and the punters.”

“There’s no Irish/English thing, people just want to see good horses in good races.”

It was fitting his nephew Danny claimed his first win of the day before the trophy lift at Sandown as Minella Cocooner triumphed in the feature bet365 Gold Cup.

Paul Townend would later guide Impaire Et Passe to victory in the Select Hurdle to put the icing on the cake.

“To have today’s victory and have my nephew Danny to ride it was special, especially after what he did in Ayr last week,” said Mullins. “Danny is our super sub he has been fantastic for us all season so congratulations to Danny and my owners too for letting us bring the horse over here rather than going to Punchestown.”

Not one to rest on his laurels, Mullins has already put thought into matching the legendary Vincent O’Brien who claimed two consecutive British titles in 1952/53 and 1953/54.

“We’ll have to get going a bit earlier next season,” said Mullins. “I doubt we’ll have a National winner but you never know.

“I think we’ll have try and emulate Vincent and do two in a row.”

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