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Patrick Mullins faces licence battle as he ponders turning pro for Cheltenham

Patrick Mullins: "I will have to give some very serious thought"
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Patrick Mullins is giving "serious consideration" to turning professional in order to take up a top-class book of rides at the Cheltenham Festival but could face a tough battle to be granted a licence by the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board (IHRB).

The BHA has confirmed the existing ban on amateur riders will be extended until at least March 29 due to the government's restrictions on grassroots sport, barring them from Cheltenham.

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That means some of racing's most high-profile names will miss out on the four-day festival, where Mullins was looking at a tremendously strong book of rides, spearheaded by Weatherbys Champion Bumper favourite Kilcruit.

"I'm very disappointed about this development," Mullins said. "Obviously I had a very good book of rides so I will have to give some very serious thought as to whether I turn professional or not." 

However, the IHRB warned on Wednesday: "Any individual applying for a professional licence will be required to demonstrate their intent to remain as a professional jockey and not to just take out a licence to circumvent current public health restrictions."

The exact criteria for granting a licence are unclear, and it seems some aspects will be at the discretion of the IHRB committee, but the spokesperson said: "The rules are designed to allow those individuals who wish to make a career as a professional jockey to apply for the appropriate licence."

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Should he get a licence, Mullins could then have to endure a stand-down period of a number of months if he subsequently elected to revert to amateur status. The rules also suggest he would not be able to revert if he rode more than 25 winners in the paid ranks. 

"Any licence granted may be subject to conditions by the Licensing Committee under Rule 19B which may include a period of time for which the licence must be held for prior to any application to return to amateur status may be granted," added the IHRB spokesperson.

With around 650 winners, Mullins is the most successful amateur rider of all time. He has ridden four winners at the festival and, apart from Kilcruit who trades at a general 13-8 for the Champion Bumper, he is booked for the St James's Place Hunters' Chase favourite Billaway and last year's Champion Hurdle runner-up Sharjah.

Melon, whom he rode to be second to Samcro in the 2020 Marsh Chase, is another he is likely to be pencilled in for in the Ryanair Chase, while there would be various other second and third strings for his father Willie Mullins, the festival's most successful trainer. 

Read more:

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Any individual applying for a professional licence will be required to demonstrate their intent to remain as a professional jockey

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P W Mullins
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