Willie Mullins unleashes his 18-strong Ayr squad featuring Klarc Kent, as Ireland’s master handler chases British Trainers’ Championship

  • Mullins is bidding to be first Irish trainer to grab the title since Vincent O’Brien
  • He will have 18 runners in eight races at Ayr and six in Scottish Grand National
  • Paddy Power pays out early on Mullins being crowned UK champion trainer

How appropriate that Willie Mullins has a runner at Ayr called Klarc Kent as his rivals must feel like they are trying to fight Superman.

When you spend time talking to Ireland’s master trainer, you get to pick up on the little subtleties in his answers; the pauses and the deliberations that let you read between the lines and understand his true feelings.

It happened at Aintree seven days ago. Basking in the glow of I Am Maximus’s display of brute force in the Grand National, Mullins had just leapt to the top of the British Trainers’ Championship and he was asked about the possibility of making history.

He waited for a second before discussing the intricacies of the British entry system and how it differs from Ireland. It might seem humdrum stuff but this, without question, was him showing his hand and making it clear his assault is now at full tilt.

Mullins has 18 horses engaged at Ayr over a fabulous eight-race card, the feature of which is the Scottish Grand National. He will saddle likely favourite Macdermott, Mr Incredible, Klarc Kent, Spanish Harlem, Ontheropes and We’llhavewan.

Willie Mullins (above) has leapt to the top of the British Trainers’ Championship

Willie Mullins (above) has leapt to the top of the British Trainers’ Championship

But the quest to become champion, to topple current title holder Paul Nicholls and dash the dreams of the aspiring Dan Skelton, goes much deeper than targeting prize money on Scotland’s west coast on what promises to be a fascinating afternoon.

Over the course of the next week, Mullins has made entries for races at Ludlow, Ffos Las, Warwick, Uttoxeter and Perth before the British Jumps season concludes at Sandown next Saturday. If Nicholls and Skelton can repel this challenge, truly they will be worthy champions.

‘He is going for global domination if he hasn’t already got it!’ observed Martin Brassil, a compatriot and colleague of Mullins. ‘No one has dominated the sport like him in our lifetime. He has a great yard of horses. I’m sure some of those he might be considering giving a break will be produced!’

This, though, is racing and nothing ever goes as you expect it will. Certainly Nicholls and Skelton will be giving it everything over the remaining week and both will be represented in the Scottish National, a race that has been good to Nicholls. He pitches Stay Away Fay into handicap company for the first time and there is also a spin for Broken Halo, who will be one of the long shots but will be ridden by Bryony Frost, whose past seven rides have yielded three winners.

‘He was in with a shout when falling two out in the London National at Sandown in December,’ Nicholls wrote in his Betfair blog. ‘More recently earned a shot at the Scottish National after staying on stoutly to win decisively over three-and-a-half miles at Taunton last month.’

Broken Halo will be one of 10 runners who Nicholls has sent on the 403-mile expedition north from Ditcheat in an attempt to overhaul Mullins. His best chance, he believes, comes in the Scottish Champion Hurdle.

‘Afadil been running at the top of his form,’ says Nicholls. ‘He comes here a week after finishing third in a competitive handicap at Aintree despite losing ground after a standing start.’

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