To ride the winner of a horse at the Cheltenham Festival is an achievement that any jockey can be proud of. To ride the winner of a Derby is an achievement that any jockey can be proud of. To do both is a very rare thing.
Yesterday at Epsom a jockey achieved that rare feat, and at the relatively tender age of 23 years. Patrick Mullins rode his first Cheltenham five years ago, when he partnered Cousin Vinny in the Champion Bumper of 2008 for his dad, trainer Willie Mullins. He doubled up in that race last year, leading from the front on Champagne Fever, again trained by his father.
At this year’s Festival, Mullins father and son were back in the winner’s enclosure after Back In focus took the four mile John Oaksey National Hunt Chase. After that race, he provided one of Cheltenham’s more memorable post race comments, when he described the sensation of a Festival winner as “like trying to describe colour to a blind person.”
Mullins won’t forget August Bank Holiday Monday 2013 in a hurry after he partnered Beacon Lady to win the Epsom Amateur Derby. His dad didn’t have any suitable horses to run in the race, so Mullins jnr got on the phone to Sussex trainer William Knight and struck a deal to ride for him. The jockey wasn’t quite as poetic as at Cheltenham in his comments afterwards, but was clearly pleased with what he had done. He said, “I wanted to come over and ride here as it is a world famous track. To ride a winner here is a thrill and I’d say it is up there with my greatest memories.”
It was a first win at Epsom for both horse and jockey, although Beacon Lady had advertised here credentials for the race with five successes over the similar undulations of Brighton, including in her last three races.
Mullins has plenty of memories to look back on already. He’s been Ireland’s champion amateur rider for the last six seasons, and at the end of last year he broke a record that had stood for 97 years for the number of winners ridden in a calendar year in Ireland by an amateur jockey. Unless he can better the 74 he rode in 2012 that record will likely be outstanding come the next century.