Has Willie Mullins won all the championship races at the Cheltenham Festival?

To avoid any confusion, perhaps our first port of call in answering this question should be to define exactly what we mean by a ‘championship’ race as far as the Cheltenham Festival is concerned. Strictly speaking, any one of the 14 Grade One races contested over the four days could be described as a ‘championship’ race in one discipline or another. However, traditionally, the term was reserved for the Champion Hurdle, the Queen Mother Champion Chase, the Stayers’ Hurdle and the Cheltenham Gold Cup, one of which is run as the ‘feature’ race, midway through the card, on each day of the Cheltenham Festival. The introduction of the Festival Trophy, a.k.a. the Ryanair Chase, run over the intermediate distance of 2 miles 4½ furlongs, in 2005 and, moreover, its promotion to Grade One status three years later, has rather muddied the waters in that respect.

In any event, regardless of whether we consider four or five championship races the Cheltenham Festival, the answer to headline question is a resounding ‘yes’. The leading trainer in the history of the March showpiece, with 88 winners to his name, Mullins first won the Champion Hurdle with Hurricane Fly (2011 and 2013) and has since won the two-mile hurdling championship twice more, with Faugheen (2015) and Annie Power (2016). In that latter year, he opened his account in the Ryanair Chase with Vautour and has since won four of the last six runnings, with Un De Sceaux (2017), Min (2020) and Allaho (2021 and 2022).

The Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Queen Mother Champion were later additions to Mullins’ CV. Having previously saddled the runner-up in the ‘Blue Riband’ event no fewer than six times, Mullins finally broke his lengthening hoodoo with Al Boum Photo (2019 and 2020), before completing a nap hand in the ‘championship’ races with Energumene in the Queen Mother Champion Chase (2022).