Patrick Mullins faces big Cheltenham Festival decision


Ruby Walsh has shed some light on the factors amateur jockey Patrick Mullins will have to consider before deciding whether to turn professional ahead of the 2021 Cheltenham Festival.

The UK Government’s suspension of grassroots sports due to Covid-19 restrictions means there will be no amateur riders at Prestbury Park this year and professionals will instead take over bookings in the National Hunt Chase Challenge CupFulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup, and the St James’s Place Festival Hunter Chase.

The temporary ban came up on Paddy Power’s latest ‘Countdown to Cheltenham’ podcast and it wasn’t long before our resident jockey-turned-pundit was quizzed for his opinion.

When asked who he would pick if he could have any amateur jockey riding a horse he owned, Ruby said: “I would have no problem going for any of the big three – Patrick Mullins, Derek O’Connor or Jamie Codd. If I couldn’t get one, then I would go for one of the other two.

“It’s like saying ‘who is your favourite footballer?’ They are three phenomenal amateur riders, in my opinion.”

Paddy Power’s own Patrick Kennelly then pushed Ruby for information on the suggestion that Mullins could turn professional in order to ride at this year’s Cheltenham Festival.

“I didn’t ask Patrick Mullins if he is going professional and I don’t know, but it’s a big decision to make,” said Ruby.

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“Obviously there are ramifications about returning to amateur status, and all of those things need to be taken into account. How long he would have to spend on the sidelines will be a huge deciding factor for him.

“While Derek and Jamie have point-to-points [as a reason for not turning professional] the weight is the biggest issue surrounding Patrick turning professional. Patrick is a bigger man than both Derek and Jamie.

“Patrick would get up every morning and weigh 11st7lbs or 11st8lbs. Maybe in the summer you would see him do 11st2lbs in a bumper but he doesn’t ride much below that. It’s a weight issue – simple as that.”

Mullins, who is the most successful amateur of all-time and would have been looking to add to his four festival winners so far, refused to rule out the prospect of turning professional in order to race at Cheltenham when the amateur ban was initially announced.

Champagne Fever Patrick Mullins Cheltenham March 14, 2012

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The son of legendary trainer Willie said “I’m very disappointed about this development. Obviously I had a very good book of rides so I will have to give some very serious thought as to whether I turn professional or not.”

Mullins would have expected to ride Sharjah in the Champion Hurdle, Kilcruit in the Champion Bumper and Billaway in the St James’ Place Festival Hunter Chase.

However, the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board states “Any individual applying for a professional licence will be required to demonstrate their intent to remain as a professional jockey and not to just take out a licence to circumvent current public health restrictions” so any decision Mullins makes would potentially prove long-term.

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*Paddy will be all over your telly box throughout the Cheltenham Festival sponsoring ITV’s live coverage from Prestbury Park – and you can get free and exclusive tipping columns EVERY DAY from Ruby Walsh, Matt Chapman and Mick Fitzgerald here on PP News.

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