Neil Mulholland started his racing career as an apprentice for Aidan O’Brien. His passion for jump racing instigated a switch of codes and a spell as a freelance jockey riding for the likes of Edward O’Grady and Colm Murphy. In 2004 Neil arrived in England and settled with Ferdy Murphy. Several moves later he found himself in the West Country as jockey and assistant trainer to Paul Keane.
In 2008 the opportunity came for him to take over the training at Larkinglass from Paul, and he took out his full training licence. After a turbulent start, Paul joined forces with Liz Harrington, who previously ran the stud at Larkinglass, and are now firmly established at Conkwell Grange Stables near Bath.
Without doubt his most successful horse to date has been Midnight Chase. Mulholland recalls riding the horse to victory back in 2007: “He was home-bred by Liz Harrington, who for my first two years training was my employer, that’s how we got the horse. Paul Keane, who was training at the time, ran him at Perth and he won and I actually rode him.”
The horse eventually had 12 career wins from 30 races, also managing to place on seven other occasions. Five times a winner at Cheltenham, he became something of a course specialist with his greatest win coming in the Grade 2 Argento Chase. He was talented enough to run fifth in the Gold Cup of 2011. Two years later the stable star was retired with the trainer full of praise saying: "I owe him an awful lot, but the main thing is he has retired safe and sound. He had to do it the hard way, that was his style as a front runner and he was genuine and tough."
The new season has started well with 29 wins from 143 runners, yet the last few weeks have been something of a rollercoaster ride. The Young Master’s victory at Wincanton was a season high, closely followed just hours later by a season’s low, when he was found to be ineligible for the race and later disqualified.
A BHA investigation took place and in a statement they said: “Once it had been ascertained that the horse was not qualified to run in the race it was a straightforward matter that he should be disqualified. It also then followed that Neil Mulholland had to be found in breach of the Rules as they are very clear that it is the trainer’s responsibility to ensure that a horse is qualified to run in any race.” A fine of £250 was imposed, with the authorities admitting that administration errors were equally culpable for the error in entering the horse for the race.
The weekend’s high profile meeting at Cheltenham gave Mulholland the chance to put a turbulent week behind him. On Saturday he sent out The Druids Nephew in the Murphy Group Handicap Chase. The horse ran with great promise, chasing home Paul Nicholls’ second season chaser Sam Winner, with the two pulling miles clear of the remainder. The horse is progressive and could well pick-up a large prize over the winter. Barry Geraghty was on board having also ridden The Young Master a week earlier. It’s clearly a combination that needs to be followed in the coming months.
Mulholland has several others in the stable with plenty of potential. Carole’s Destrier has started his chasing career in style. A close second at Ffos Las was followed by a commanding victory at Exeter. A lovely strapping son of Kayf Tara, he is set for an exciting winter.
Southfield Royale is a promising four-year-old son of Presenting. He won his only career start in a bumper at Market Rasen in June, and looks set to run over hurdles later this week. Minella Present runs for the same connections as Midnight Chase. He looks every inch a chaser for the future. He ran with great promise at Cheltenham this weekend, when stepped up in class for the Neptune Investment Novices’ Hurdle.
With the season’s prize money already at £140,000, Mulholland finds himself 21st in the trainers championship. His purchase of ex-Irish pointer Shantou Village for £80,000 in the recent Brightwells sale, shows the stables desire for further success. This is still a relatively young enterprise, but recent weeks have proved that Mulholland is starting to gather the talent needed for a prosperous future.