Horse Talk with Simon Jackson:
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RUBY Walsh believes the impact will be felt immediately of the shock news that Michael O’Leary will wind down his hugely successful Gigginstown racing operation.
Michael O’Leary’s brother and long-time racing manager, Eddie O’Leary cited Michael’s desire to spend more time with his family as the prime motivation for the decision to phase out the business.
The announcement came five weeks after Gigginstown’s Tiger Roll became the first horse since Red Rum to secure back to back victories in the Grand National and the win provided Gigginstown with it’s third Grand National win in four years, following the victory of Rule The World in 2016.
“It might take them four or five years to get out, but the ramifications will be felt as soon as this morning,” the recently retired Walsh said in his role as a columnist at news.paddypower.com. “I don’t think anyone will benefit from this situation. It’s a loss for Irish racing. There is no winner.”
“I’m probably not as shocked or as surprised as everyone else. There were signs there along the way. Michael and Anita have four kids that are growing up and the only one that appears to have interest in racing is Michael.
“He didn’t go to the Irish National this year. He wasn’t at the Dublin Racing Festival this year on the Saturday when Apple’s Jade won either because he was doing things with the kids.
“They’ve been hugely successful and they’ve been a massive help to Irish racing and their loss will be huge to a lot of people in racing, not just the trainers, but to the breeders, pin-hookers at sales to point-to-point racing – the loss of their financial investment will be felt across the board.”
Walsh, who himself last month shocked the racing world when announcing his retirement with immediate effect after winning the Punchestown Gold, does not think O’Leary’s hunger for success has waned.
“They’ve won a lot, but to have the amount of horses they have, you need to be in love and dedicated to racing 24/7,” he continued. “I don’t think it was a financial decision either. You don’t get to be as clever as Michael O’Leary by thinking that getting involved in National Hunt racing is a wise business decision. It’s not to make a profit, it’s a passion.
“The knock-on effect of their decision will be felt immediately and from the bottom up. They won’t be buying next week at the Land Rover Sale. They won’t be buying at the Derby Sale. They won’t have point-to-pointers next year, no bumper horses, then no novice hurdlers or chasers. It might take them four or five years to get out, but the ramifications will be felt as soon as this morning.
“I don’t think anyone will benefit from this situation. It’s a loss for Irish racing. There is no winner.
“When Gigginstown split with Willie [Mullins – two years ago], he had to change his business and survive without them. And he did that, successfully. Gordon Elliott, Noel Meade, Henry de Bromhead, Joseph O’Brien [the Gigginstown trainers], they’ll all have to do the same and they will.
“They will readjust their business and work without them. It’s a carbon copy of what happened to Willie but it’s on a national scale. Except this time, they’re not just moving, they’re going for good.”
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