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'Loss of Michael O'Leary's financial investment will be felt across the board' - Ruby Walsh

It was announced yesterday that operations at the Gigginstown House Stud are to be brought to a halt.

Left to right: Ruby Walsh, Michael O'Leary, Rich Ricci and Willie Mullins at Punchestown in 2016.
Left to right: Ruby Walsh, Michael O'Leary, Rich Ricci and Willie Mullins at Punchestown in 2016.
Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

RUBY WALSH FEELS that Michael O’Leary’s decision to wind down the famous Gigginstown House Stud is “a loss for Irish racing”. 

In a statement released by Michael’s brother Eddie yesterday, it was announced that the operation would be brought to a halt over the next few years and the scaling-back policy it to begin with immediate effect. 

The news has shocked the sport just a month after Tiger Roll’s Grand National victory, but recently-retired jockey Walsh had an idea it was coming. 

“I’m probably not as shocked or as surprised as everyone else,” said Paddy Power columnist Walsh.

“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.

“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.”

Gordon Elliott and Michael O'Leary with the 2019 Aintree Grand National trophy O'Leary (right) with Gordon Elliott after winning this year's Aintree Grand National. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

Walsh, who called time on his incredible career as a jockey at Punchestown earlier this month, isn’t of the opinion that O’Leary’s hunger for racing has waned. 

“I don’t think it’s about that,” he said. “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. 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.”

Walsh added: “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, 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, 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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Ben Blake

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