©Healy Racing Photos
Danny Mullins has expressed his delight after being named retained jockey for one of the country's biggest owners in Barry Connell.
The son of trainers Margaret and Tony Mullins, and the nephew of champion National Hunt trainer Willie, the 20-year-old graduated from the pony racing scene before signing up as an apprentice to Jim Bolger when he was just 15.
He made an electric start to his first year, riding a remarkable four winners from his first six rides in public, and in December 2009 began to ride over obstacles.
Mullins has enjoyed plenty of previous success for Connell, riding the likes of Anonis and Mumbo Jumbo in the last couple of seasons, and can now look forward to partnering the rest of the owner's growing string.
Mullins: "I'm delighted. Barry has got a lot of good horses and hopefully there are some exciting times ahead.
"I've ridden a good few of his horses trained by my mum and my dad, and luckily enough we had a good enough Christmas, but it came totally out of the blue when he rang me to say I could ride all his horses.
"Barry is a great owner, he's been great to me and he is keen to get more and more good horses.
"I think he's got horses with about 10 different trainers, so I'll be trying to get around them as much as possible to get a feel of as many of the horses as I can."
Despite his growing reputation, Mullins has yet to have a ride at the Cheltenham Festival, but that looks certain to change this coming March.
The Dessie Hughes-trained Minsk could be bound for Prestbury Park if he shows his worth in the Deloitte Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown on Sunday week, while Connell recently acquired Champion Bumper favourite Golantilla, now in the care of Tony Martin.
"Barry has got horses like Mount Benbulben and Minsk. I think Minsk is going for the Deloitte on Hennessy day and it will be exciting to get on him," said Mullins.
"Golantilla looks a very exciting prospect at the moment. Barry told me he's arrived with Tony Martin now and he's just having a bit of a break before hopefully getting ready for Cheltenham.
"I've never even had a ride at the Festival before with one or two failing to get in their races, but I've had a couple of winners at the Paddy Power meeting.
"It looks like Barry will have a good team for Cheltenham this time, which is great, as Cheltenham is the place everybody wants to win."
While opportunities to ride for Willie Mullins will clearly be lessened by his new role, the young jockey hopes to maintain links with Closutton.
"If I'm free and available and Willie wants me to ride for him, I definitely will," he said.
"Willie has been very good to me and I have learnt so much from riding out for him.
"I owe him a big debt and I won't be cutting all ties with him.