HISTORY looks set to be made at Sandown today [Saturday] with Willie Mullins on the verge of becoming the first Irish-based champion British jumps trainer in 70 years.

Vincent O’Brien was the last such trainer to achieve the feat in the 1953-’54 season.

Although it is mathematically possible Dan Skelton could overhaul him, it appears unlikely, and Mullins is set to saddle nine runners at Sandown Park versus Skelton’s five.

Mullins has saddled fewer than 30 winners in Britain this season but the championship is based on prize money and the stable’s success in the Champion Hurdle (State Man), Gold Cup (Galopin Des Champs) and Grand National (I Am Maximus) has seen the Co Carlow trainer take the lead in the British table. Macdermott’s victory in the Scottish Grand National last Saturday all but sealed the title.

Mullins said: “We had been looking at it a few weeks before the Grand National and I said if we are lucky enough to win it then we would be in with a shout. We therefore entered a bigger team than normal for Aintree and it turned out well with, I think, four Grade 1s and the Grand National. I then said to the team this is a once in a lifetime chance – I wasn’t born when Vincent won it - and we will throw everything at it. We might get a taste for it and this whets the appetite. We had a way better time at Ayr than I thought, which was unbelievable and has made this week easier.”

Always keen to pay tribute to those around him, Mullins continued: “I have a good team in the office and they do everything in spite of me! They know what they are doing and everything just goes on.

“The type of people we have around the place including my wife Jackie, son Patrick, David Casey, Ruby Walsh, Grainne Whelan in the office, Dick Dowling out in the yard and Ben Delmer, our travelling head lad. They just do their job and go with it which makes my job a lot easier. The years of experience they bring to the table at Closutton – it’s hard to hire people like that as they don’t exist. They have come through our own academy, so to speak, and know how it works. We are not people who change our minds easily and go with what works.”

Of Vincent O’Brien, Mullins said: “Vincent was a legend of legends in racing and to have your name up against him is something you could never dream of, it’s just extraordinary.

“I was lucky enough to have met him once or twice but I never imagined I could be as good as him or anything like that. I looked at what he did and how he achieved it and wondered if we could do something similar over jumps. He wasn’t afraid to source horses in different places and we have gone everywhere we can to source horses, which I think is an important part of what we have achieved at Closutton.”

The reigning British champion trainer Paul Nicholls is likely to finish third this time around but takes great pride in playing a huge role in making his stable jockey Harry Cobden the likely champion jump jockey and is already looking ahead to a bid for his 15th trainers’ title next year.

He said: “Hopefully we can keep Harry in the driving seat – it’s thoroughly deserved. It’s fantastic for Harry and the team. He’s been riding very, very well this year and fortunately stayed injury-free, with plenty of winners for us and others. He is still relatively young and the complete jockey. There have been lots of standouts and he’s riding very well. He’s a great team player.

“Sean Bowen is a very good jockey who also spent time at Ditcheat. I think it was inevitable they were going to be up against one another at some point.”

On the trainers’ title, Nicholls said: “This competition is great for racing. I feel for poor Dan Skelton. He thought when he finished above me he would be champion trainer and then Willie has come along and trumped us both! It’s sport and it depends on the team you’ve got.”