Thursday, November 22, 2012

Tom Mullins

Tom Mullins

By Stephen Dwyer

The binoculars were broken, no question about it. Flung with disgust to the Cheltenham concrete as Tom Mullins believed the chance of Alderwood had been taken away in a moment. It was the Vincent O’Brien County Handicap Hurdle, one of the most competitive races at the Cheltenham Festival. Badly hampered on the inside rail two flights from home, Tony McCoy steered and squeezed Alderwood out of trouble. The gelding rallied well after the home turn and barely held on by under a length to the Paul Nicholls-trained Edgardo Sol. Despair had turned to disbelief of a different kind, Tom Mullins had just trained his very first Cheltenham winner.

The Mullins family are masters of understatement, true too for Tom when mentioning after Alderwood won; “It is an unbelievable feeling ,I just wanted to get one on the board”. Tom’s father, Paddy along with his brothers Tony, Willie and his cousin Seamus, had all won at Cheltenham. Now another Mullins had joined the illustrious band. In a way, Alderwoood’s victory at Cheltenham was fitting. It had been thirty years since Paddy Mullins won the National Hunt Chase with Hazy Dawn and thirty years also since Tom Mullins completed his jockey’s course at the National Stud.

A stint in America was followed by over a decade as a very useful amateur rider but the training world was never far away. It was the priceless time he spent as assistant trainer with his father, Paddy, that the practicalities and procedures of training thoroughbreds were repeated over and over again. In February 2004, Tom took out his public training licence and since then he has consistently performed well. In his first season he trained fifteen winners. There were eighteen in the second, a season which brought its own good fortune in a resolute mare called Asian Maze.

Asian Maze, a full sister to Quantitativeeasing won four Grade One races for Mullins. She was a top performer at the highest level in races which included the Aintree Hurdle and the Champion Stayer's Hurdle. As well as Asian Maze, Tom also trained Oscar Dan Dan to win the Hatton's Grace Hurdle a couple of seasons ago. Training from his base at Goresbridge, last season was a highly profitable one for Tom Mullins. With 15 winners from 71 rides, Mullins turned out a level stakes profit of €31.71, one of the highest in the region.

A fine example of the ability of the younger Mullins brother was the transformation of Alderwood. Owned by JP McManus, the gelding was winless in his first seven starts. He would become one of the training success stories of last season. Alderwood is one of the most improved horses in training , his progression included that famous win in the County Hurdle at Cheltenham, a Grade Two at Fairyhouse and a gritty Grade One triumph in the Evening Herald Champion Novice Hurdle at Punchestown. Now destined for a career in Novice Chasing, Alderwood could be one for the notebooks over fences.

Aside from Alderwood, there was another high point this year for the Tom Mullins yard. Bob Lingo provided Mullins with the biggest win in his short career when gallantly powering to victory in this year’s the Galway Plate. He beat his brother Willie’s Blackstairmountain into third when running out a five length winner of the Galway Festival’s biggest race at Ballybrit. Additionally, Some Article ran out an impressive winner of the valuable Goffs Land Rover Bumper at Punchestown.

It was predominantly these achievements which led to Mullins being nominated for the HRI awards under the 2012 National Hunt category. The awards, which take place 10th December at Leopardstown Racecourse acknowledge the human and equine excellence in the sport of horse racing where Ireland continues to outperform other countries with greater resources. In addition to Tom Mullins, the nominees in the National Hunt category are, Barry Geraghty, Tony Martin, Davy Russell and of course Willie Mullins.

Ever modest, no matter what the outcome of the HRI awards, Tom Mullins remains an exciting trainer to follow. As a side note, Tom has the enviable record of being unbeaten on the legendary Dawn Run. It was he who rode her in her remaining two flat races after Mrs Hill stopped riding the mare. There is a lot more than meets the eye with Tom Mullins, lots held in reserve you feel, in a well that runs very deep indeed.



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