Champion trainer Willie Mullins fears that his horses might be "nobbled" with sedatives before next week's Cheltenham Festival and describes a climate of apprehension and suspicion around doping in racing.

Speaking to the Guardian yesterday ahead of the start of Cheltenham on 11 March, Mullins spoke about his horses' vulnerability before major meetings, where many of his runners are favourites to win.

"We have some very fancied horses and it would make a lot of money for someone if they were going to Cheltenham and they could alter the course of events.

“So we would be very aware and keep people away. Everyone should be vigilant – especially if you have a fancied horse. You've got to be."

And this morning, Mullins told RTÉ Sport that he had been victim of horse doping while he was a jockey in a race in the 1980s.

“The horse was doped. We didn’t realise because we didn’t expect it, you don’t expect that sort of thing to happen,” said Mullins.

The Carlow trainer said this year, like every year, he will be taking his own security measures for his horses at the Festival.

“In horse racing like in any major sport there is a risk of knowledge, if someone can dope or nobble a major player or team they can sell that information or use it themselves,” said Mullins.

“It is just something we are aware of all the time, probably more so in racing than in other sports.

“No more than a major soccer team flying to Europe, they are always worried about their food, their accommodation, where they are staying, who is around the team. They keep people away from them.

“It is the same with horses, you have got to be on your guard all the time."

Mullins admitted to being extra cautious over security and welfare of his charges around trips to Cheltenham.

“We take our own precautions for Cheltenham, we always have it’s not just this year, it is every year. When you have a really major player going across you always have concerns," he said.

“I don’t think a lot of Irish people would have the same concern or make the same fuss about it, but we would always consider it something to think about when we’re going.”