John 'Shark' Hanlon: 'Willie Mullins is a genius'

John 'Shark' Hanlon: 'Willie Mullins is a genius'

Irish horse trainer John 'Shark' Hanlon has claimed that his peer Willie Mullins is a "genius."

Mullins, an Irish 17-time champion jumps trainer and the all-time most successful Cheltenham Festival handler, will once again be front and centre at this year's Cheltenham Festival with a variety of horses. It is expected that Mullins will clean up once again at the famous festival due to the number of entries he will have throughout the week.

The Irish horse trainer currently sits on 94 winners across 12 festivals and needs six winners to reach a landmark century. This could happen on day one.

Hanlon, who had his own success story with the horse Henwick, believes his fellow trainer is on another level when it comes to the sport. When asked if he was a "genius," he replied: "Yes, he is. But he does have the owners to buy the horses!!

"If any of us had the owners that Willie has to buy the horses, we would be just as good. We are training horses that cost us between €5 and €10,000.

"Willie is spending 200,000 to 500,000 euros. That is the difference, and he is buying a lot of ready-made horses that have won point-to-point or won in France, for instance.

"We just haven’t got the financial power to get these horses. Paul Nicholls in Britain has the power too. And here there’s also Gordon Elliott and Henry de Bromhead.

"We are in the smaller league. We don’t have the power because we don’t have the owners."

CHELTENHAM, ENGLAND, MARCH 09: Willie Mullins on the gallops at Cheltenham racecourse on March 9, 2015, in Cheltenham, England. (Photo by Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images)

Mullins is one of many Irish trainers expected to clean up at the festival. Gordon Elliott and Henry de Bromhead are also aiming to win big with their array of horses.

Hanlon believes it is impossible to compete with the likes of Elliot, Mullins, and Henry de Bromhead because of the spending power needed to compete with the Irish super yards. However, he believes that they can get there slowly.

"It is impossible to take on those super yards in Ireland. We are working with handicap horses because we can’t get the graded horses. We can’t afford to buy the graded horses. That is the big thing. Gordon has Gigginstown and three or four other very good customers. Willie has them everywhere. I just hope one of them might come to me!!

"How important, then, is it to have a Henwick who can put you in the shop window and show how good you are?

"Henwick is a dream horse. It just shows that any smaller trainer, me, or anyone else, when you get the horse, we are all well able to train them.

"It is just getting the horses that is the problem.

"We are not at the top there yet. We are getting there slowly. There are a lot of people above us. We are getting there nice and steady. You have good days and bad days. You just try to keep your heads together and stay on the same level."

Hanlon was speaking to BoyleSports, who offer the latest Cheltenham Gold Cup odds.