Mullins stunned by Gigginstown exit but Walsh believes signs were there
Willie Mullins says he was shocked by the Gigginstown bombshell which rocked the racing world on Tuesday and presumed Michael O'Leary's appetite for big-race success would have been whetted by the heroic efforts of Tiger Roll, who won back-to-back Grand Nationals only last month.
O'Leary removed all the Gigginstown-owned horses, believed to be around 60, from the Mullins stable back in the autumn of 2016 following a dispute over training fees, but Ireland's champion trainer says the pair never fell out and had many great days together, including at Cheltenham with the likes of Sir Des Champs and Don Poli.
"It's a major shock to the industry and one that I didn't see coming at all. After winning the Grand National again this year, you would think that it would have whetted their appetite for more big-race success in the coming years.
"Michael has picked his time and he's going out when at the very top," Mullins said.
"Myself and Michael never fell out, we just had our differences," the champion trainer added. "We had some marvellous days over the years and many Cheltenham winners.
"You have to remember he gave Emmet [Mullins, the trainer's nephew] a Cheltenham winner on Sir Des Champs and [nephew] David a Grand National winner thanks to Rule The World, so the Mullins family as a whole owe them plenty.
"I suppose the day Apple's Jade won by that huge margin at Aintree after going so close in the Triumph at Cheltenham would be one highlight that springs to mind but there were many, many of them."
Colin Bowe, Ireland's leading point-to-point trainer who sold Samcro to Gigginstown, says the O'Leary brothers will be sorely missed in the sales ring when it comes to trying to sell a promising, young point winner.
"I will certainly miss them. They have bought plenty of nice young horses off me and I suppose the best of them was Samcro. It's a massive blow to the point-to-point industry," Bowe said.
He added: "Not only was it great to see them in the sales ring when you were selling one at Cheltenham, but they also added a bit of depth to the point-to-point races too."
Ruby Walsh, who enjoyed plenty of big-race success in the maroon and white silks, believes there is no winner out of Gigginstown's decision.
"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," said the Paddy Power ambassador.
While his former boss was shocked at the news, Walsh says the signs were there during the second-half of the jumps season.
Walsh said: "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, 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."
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