Zuzka was win number 73 for Mullins, and like most of the others, came on a horse trained by his father. He said, "To achieve the record on the second last day of the year was extra special. I was lucky enough to equal it a couple of weeks back but I was beginning to wonder of I'd ever get to 73 winners. I owe it all to Dad of course. We had such a great summer and it wasn't until September that we thought there might be a chance of making an attempt at the record.”
He had already ridden Zuzka to victory twice earlier in the season, but in her more recent races Ruby Walsh and Paul Townend have shared that duty. Walsh was due to have taken the ride, but stood down to give Mullins the chance of breaking the record. In the end, it wasn’t necessary as Mullins went on to complete a double later in the afternoon on Outlander.
That has stretched his total in 2012 to 74, and Mullins has one chance to extend it further with a ride in the final race of the year at Punchestown today.
The biggest disappointment attached to the achievement is that the nephew of Billy Parkinson was not there to see it. He was Tony Sweeney, the leading historian of Irish racing, and had flagged up how close Mullins was to the record a few months ago. Sadly, he died earlier this month, aged 81, following a heart attack.
It’s clearly a huge milestone to pass a record that had stood for so long, and in some respects it is astonishing that a man like Mullins has done it. He really shouldn’t be a jockey at all. For a start, Mullins is 6ft 2 ins tall, which must make him one of the tallest jockeys riding. Then there’s the matter of weight. The lowest he can do is 11st 4lbs. That’s one of the reasons he won’t consider turning professional.
He says that as a professional you need to be able to ride regularly at 10m and a half stone, and he has no chance of getting down to that sort of weight. Add to that, Walsh, Townend and his cousin Emmet Mulllins all regularly ride for his father. Mullins says he gets more rides as an amateur than he cold hope for if he set out to earn his living from the sport.
Now Mullins is looking forward to Cheltenham, where at the age of 23 he already has a place in the record books. He’s one of four riders (with Richard Dunwoody, Paul Carberry and Charlie Swann) to have doubled up in the Champion Bumper, with successes on Cousin Vinny (2008) and Champagne Fever (2012).
Stan James made her 8/1 third favourite for the David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle at the Festival, with spokesman Joseph Burke saying, "Zuzka was extremely impressive today as she proved without any doubt that her fantastic run behind Jezki and Champagne Fever last time out was no fluke."
Will she and Mullins win it? Well, his dad will have plenty to say about that. He trains 4/5 favourite Quevega as well as Zuzka, and she’s scheduled to go for a fifth consecutive sin in that race.