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Mullins rewarded for long trip north as Avon Vale goes behind closed doors

Wilsford trainer Seamus Mullins came within a whisker of a memorable long distance double at Kelso yesterday , but still came away with his fourth winner of the term when Playa Blanca held on to win the 2m Handicap Hurdle qualifier opening the Sunday card. Plantaganet came with 3/4l of making that a double in the handicap chase, but more than justified the 730 mile round trip.

Seamus comes from a family where racing is part of the genetic code. His uncle, the late Paddy Mullins, trained hundreds of winners to be Irish Champion Trainer ten times from the family farm, including the peerless Dawn Run. First cousins Willie, Tony and Tom are all trainers back in Ireland.

Seamus has been in the UK nearly 40 years since graduating from University College Dublin and heading for Toby Balding's in 1981. After spells with Jim Old and Jimmy Fitzgerald, he set up a Point-to-Point training business in 1985 as a route to the professional ranks, combining this with riding as an amateur. He topped that career with a win for old boss Toby Balding on Boraceva in the 1989 National Hunt Chase at the Festival.

The Point-to-Point business morphed into a professional yard in 1991, since when Seamus has trained 492 winners under National Hunt Rules and a further 18 on the Flat. This is unashamedly a Jumps yard, which has grown steadily to produce 30+ winners a year. In the truncated season that was 2019-20, of the 51 runners for the yard, only 8 failed to deliver any return at all.

Self-confessedly a stockman, you're unlikely to find Seamus at glamorous London parties trawling for big money owners, and if that produces a shortfall in expensive Saturday horses, it is more than made up in clever placing, attention to detail and sheer enjoyment. Seamus's horses are in their element chasing prizes at the likes of Plumpton, Fontwell, once upon a time at Towcester, Newton Abbot and Exeter, where modestly purchased animals can still win races for clients with less than stratospheric budgets. Not afraid to travel his horses for the right race, there are only 5 UK racecourses where he's not trained a winner.

Nor is it all about racing either. When the virus put paid to last season so abruptly and most of the horses were put out to pasture, along with a majority of the staff furloughed, Seamus did his own bit for the community by stacking shelves at Waitrose. This is a man prepared to roll his sleeves up to get things done.

Meanwhile, in Point-to-Point news, the Avon Vale has opted to join the ranks of early season meetings, with a fixture on Sunday November 29. But unlike previous incarnations, the fixture will be one of the first to be staged behind closed doors, without spectators. So, if you were planning to attend this time around to make up for the lost fixture this Spring, please stay at home. No-one not connected to a runner will be permitted to attend.

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