David Mullins is one of Ireland’s leading National Hunt jockeys. The son of the well-known successful trainer Tom Mullins and grandson of legendary Paddy Mullins, he is one of the retained jockeys for his uncle Willie Mullins, the multiple Irish and English champion trainer and one of the greatest of all times.
David started riding at 4 years of age. He joined Warrington Equestrian Centre in Kilkenny and he show jumped successfully for years and only began race riding at the age of 16 which culminated in the greatest win of them all three years later - the Aintree Grand National.
He comes from the Mullins horse racing dynasty on his father’s side and show jumping from his mother’s side - his aunt Marion Hughes competed for Ireland in the 2004 Athens Olympics.
What is your typical day on the track?
Morning: Tuesday is my busiest day. It’s a 8am start riding out horses until 12.30pm in Willie Mullins’s yard. For that period of time you could ride anything from three to seven horses.
Afternoon: I could have a ride in a horse race anywhere in the country. You need to be at the track one hour before the start. Most of the summer race meetings begin at 5.30 or 6pm, the winter meets start at 12.30pm.
Evening: If it’s a summer evening race meeting that I am racing in I am not home until after midnight!
When did you know that racing was your thing?
Racing wasn’t the obvious choice at the start and I had no interest when I was in Kieran’s College - I was more into the hurling. I suppose I became interested in my mid-teens and I started moving away from the ponies.
You left school at the age of 16. Did you do your Leaving Cert?
I woke up one morning to get ready for school and my mother told me she and the principal had decided to let me leave to pursue a career in racing. I was straight up to the yard and didn’t ask anymore questions. I can honestly say I have no regrets about it.
So what was your first day like at work, out in the real world?
I started in Dad’s yard when I was 16 and then moved into Willies. I started riding some bumpers for dad. My cousin Danny introduced me to Gordon Elliot who gave me more rides in the bumpers, I never looked back.
Your biggest win was at the Aintree Grand National in 2016 on Rule the World. Has anything topped that since?
No nothing will top that, but riding the legendary Faugheen to win at Punchestown when he was written off. That was something special.
So it is safe to safe to say Faugheen is your favourite horse?
I love the feel of riding Faugheen and winning on him. The reaction from the crowd when you come back to the winning enclosure is incredible, it even made Rich Richie (owner) cry!
You race mainly in Ireland and UK. Where is your favourite race track?
Aintree for obvious reasons but at home Leopardstown and Punchestown. Stephen’s Day in Leopardstown is special, that’s where every jockey wants to be.
So how does riding on Stephen’s Day impact on your Christmas dinner?
I am just shy of 6ft and under 10.4 stone, that’s the ideal weight for my height, it depends if I have weight to lose but I don’t mind if I can eat it.
How do you keep your weight down?
I struggled with my weight at the start but Ruby (Walsh) gave me some good advice. Now I don’t eat breakfast, just a coffee to kick start the day, at lunch I grab something light and I eat whatever I want for my dinner, be it two burgers or a big steak.
Unfortunately there is a huge problem of flipping, especially in flat racing in the UK. There needs to be more awareness of it, the authorities are trying to sort it out with professional diets and nutritionists.
What’s it like riding for the great Willie Mullins?
He is the easiest person you can ride for. He trusts his jockeys and mainly leaves it to them. Ruby was always there to give advice, and since he has retired I am sure he will always be around.
Were you surprised when Ruby announced his retirement?
No, just delighted he got out in one piece, he broke nearly every bone in his body and of course it’s less competition for everyone else now!
The day Ruby announced his retirement you broke your collarbone in Punchestown. How are you now?
I’ve recovered now after seven weeks off. I’ve broken the left collarbone three times and the right one once, they both have plates in them.
Your poor mother’s heart must be in her mouth at all times?
Yes she is the one who normally brings me to the hospital. The worst was when I punctured my lung at Ballinrobe Races, I drove halfways home with the injury before I realised how bad it was and then rang her!
Does riding horses help with your temperament outside of the stables?
Yes. There’s a lot of mental health problems in racing that are only coming to the surface now in the industry. It has so many ups and downs, as a jockey you are never sure what’s around the corner. There’s not a lot of security in the game. So you just have to stay grounded to get through and racing is a great leveller.
Your day is divided up into ridding out in the morning and racing in the afternoon. Is it like having two jobs?
Absolutely. Some people make a living out of riding out. Tuesdays are my busiest day.
How many races would you ride in an average year and how many winners have you had?
It’s on average 300 races a year and I have had around 200 wins.
Do you ever take a break or a holiday?
Jockeys get 12 days off at the end of June and 8 days off at the start of September. There’s lots of time off too if you are injured!
What advice do you have for anyone hoping to get into racing as a jockey?
Get yourself into a good yard.
What’s on your bucket list?
The Champion Hurdle Gold Cup, just that for now. When I win that, come back and ask me that question again!
If you had to pick any horse in the world to ride, who would it be?
Enable – the winner of two Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe races.
Who is your idol?
When you can eat what you want, what is your favourite food?
Fillet steak cooked by Mammy.
What’s your favourite thing to do when you come to Kilkenny?
I take the odd Monday off and I love spending it playing a round of golf in Gowran.
Are you a proud Kilkenny or Carlow man? I ask you this because when I worked for Irish TV and you won in Aintree the Carlow show claimed you as one of theirs and interviewed you. I never forgave them!
Without a doubt I am a proud Kilkenny man.
David’s next big race meet will be at the 2019 Galway Races Summer Festival, which runs from July 29 to August 4.