Cup of joy: Mullins amazed by reaction to Al Boum Photo's Cheltenham triumph
Willie Mullins sneaked out for a walk on Monday morning, hoping some fresh air might help his hangover, but the stroll was constantly interrupted by passers-by who could not drive past without stopping to shake his hand.
The most successful trainer in Cheltenham Festival history finally ended his Gold Cup hoodoo, after six seconds, when Al Boum Photo stormed home last Friday and the celebrations remain in full swing. A lot done, a lot more to do is Mullins' motto.
"It's half-time at the moment with the celebrations," he said. "The first half went well, very well, but I have a feeling the second half might last a bit longer. We've made a few substitutions and I could see it going to extra-time!"
Mullins added: "It's been an amazing reaction, I can't believe it. I went out for a walk this morning to try to clear my head, I needed to get out for a while, but it took a lot longer than it should have done as everybody wanted to stop to shake my hand and chat. It was incredible.
"The number of people who have called me to say, 'Well done' is unbelievable, the number of texts I've received is unbelievable. It's great, people have been great, so kind. I suppose it just emphasises how popular an Irish Gold Cup winner is."
Reflecting on the race after having watched the replay umpteen times, Mullins admitted he went through a rollercoaster of emotions but knew Al Boum Photo was poised to play a big part judging by his jockey Paul Townend's body language.
"I wasn't feeling very good with a circuit to race, that's for sure," said Mullins, who had three others runners, with Kemboy unseating at the first, Bellshill pulling up and Invitation Only fatally hurt in a fall at the tenth fence.
"Al Boum Photo went from being my third or fourth choice to being my number one very quickly as all of my others were out of the race. It looked like it was going to be one of those races where nothing went right.
"But, knowing Paul's body language, and the way he rides, I knew he was travelling very sweetly. I know the way he rides inside out, and the position of his body made me think the horse was going very well.
"Paul was very relaxed and the horse was very balanced jumping every fence, it was poetry in motion."
He added: "I was worried about the horse in front of Paul, as they were jumping and galloping so well, and I wondered whether he'd be able to pick them up, but once Paul asked him, then away he went. Paul was very cool and that's been a feature of his riding for as long as I've known him."
Mullins also paid tribute to the legendary trainer Mick O’Toole, who died last year, stressing that Friday’s triumph would never have happened but for him.
"None of this would have happened but for Micko," said Mullins. "He introduced me to Joe Donnelly, and my brief was to buy a Gold Cup horse for him.
"We bought Melon – and who knows what he might achieve – but thankfully it worked out with Al Boum and we found a Gold Cup winner for him.
"After what happened at Punchestown [where Al Boum Photo inexplicably ran out at the last in the Irish Gold Cup under Townend], Joe and Marie Donnelly were fantastic. They took that bit of bad luck on the chin and fully deserved last week's win."
Invitation Only was not the only loss at the festival for Mullins and owner Graham Wylie as Ballyward also suffered a fatal fall in the National Hunt Chase.
Mullins said: "It was huge bad luck for one owner to lose those two promising horses. It was such a shame, they were real prospects."
Mullins, who with four winners was crowned top trainer at Cheltenham for the sixth time, reflected: "It started better than we ever could have imagined, to win the first two races.
"We went over with lower expectations than usual. I thought Benie Des Dieux [who fell with the Mares' Hurdle at her mercy] would be the one to break the ice for us on day one and we might get one or two more along with her. I certainly didn't think we'd win the first two races, that's for sure.
"Cheltenham is tougher than most people realise. It's very tough. To get winners there is never easy and we have been very lucky. To win the Gold Cup is special."
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