Willie Mullins was keen to pay tribute to his owners and his staff after being crowned champion trainer for the 16th time on the final day of the Punchestown Festival.
The Closutton machine has certainly been in full working order this season, with Mullins saddling over 200 winners and accumulating almost €5.5 million in prize-money to ensure he finished well ahead of Gordon Elliott in second and Henry de Bromhead in third.
The 65-year-old picked up his latest title following another another magical week in Co Kildare, notching 14 winners across the five days including nine Grade 1 victories.
He said: “I’ve got some very loyal owners and they have the wherewithal to provide these horses if we can spot them.
“When you have the likes of my wife Jackie, Patrick, Ruby (Walsh), David Casey, it’s not just one person it’s the whole lot put together that makes a huge difference. Our staff as well, they ride out in all weather and are at home working away while we are here. I’m very lucky to have them all.”
Notable Mullins triumphs on home soil this season include winning the John Durkan and the Punchestown Gold Cup with Allaho and the Punchestown Champion Chase with Energumene, while he completed the Galway Plate-Galway Hurdle double with Royal Rendezvous and Saldier respectively.
He won six of the eight Grade 1s on offer at the Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown in February and also enjoyed a fantastic campaign in Britain – clinching his second King George VI Chase at Kempton with Tornado Flyer and saddling a record 10 winners at the Cheltenham Festival.
He added: “I love the game, it’s not work to me. It’s what I know and it’s not a job when you are enjoying it. I’m very lucky.
“Like any football team if you can have young talent coming through that’s a great basis for a proper team later on and that’s what we try to replicate.”
Mullins’ stable jockey Paul Townend is champion jockey for the fourth year in succession and fifth time overall, rounding off a memorable campaign with nine winners at Punchestown this week.
As well as steering Allaho and Energumene to big-race success, the 31-year-old enjoyed top-level victories aboard the likes of Chacun Pour Soi, Galopin Des Champs, Sir Gerhard, Klassical Dream and Vauban during the course of another excellent season.
“It’s brilliant and I actually missed five months of the season,” said Townend.
“I thought when I did my shoulder, after missing time with my foot as well following this meeting last year, that that was the championship gone.
“I suppose when you are riding for Willie it’s kind of expected and it’s definitely a big leg up to being champion. It caps a good year.”
Mullins’ son Patrick was crowned leading amateur for the 14th time, while Townend’s sister Jody is the champion lady amateur rider.
Jack Foley, who steered the Mullins-trained El Barra to victory at Punchestown on Friday, took the champion conditional rider’s title.
JP McManus is the champion owner for the second successive season and 19th time overall after enjoying big-race victories with the likes of Grade One winners Capodanno and Fakir D’oudairies.
Suzanne Eade, chief executive of Horse Racing Ireland, said: “This is the first time since May 2019 that we have been able to crown our National Hunt champions before a raceday crowd and my congratulations go to JP, Willie, Paul, Jody, Jack, Patrick and the many thousands across the country who have worked to make the season the success that it was.
“The wonderful achievements of so many within our industry show Irish racing in the best possible light and high-profile wins on the biggest of the world’s racing stages are reflected in the terrific crowds that we have seen here this week and at Fairyhouse over Easter.
“It augurs well for the summer ahead and I wish all involved the very best of luck as the new jumps season begins at Down Royal on Monday.”