Gigginstown keep door ajar
Reconciliation between Stud and Mullins is a possibility in the future
Michael O'Leary's Gigginstown House Stud may have horses with Willie Mullins in the future despite yesterday's shock split over training fees.
Mullins confirmed the news yesterday that he had increased his training fees for the first time in 10 years for the upcoming season and thus lost the patronage of Gigginstown, who he had enjoyed 140 winners with over the last five seasons, including a number of Grade One triumphs.
However, in a statement released later yesterday afternoon by Gigginstown House Stud, a reconciliation wasn't ruled out.
"As Gigginstown House Stud has been unable to reach agreement with Willie Mullins on an increase in training fees, we have agreed - with considerable regret - to move the Gigginstown horses to alternative trainers for the coming 2016-17 season," the statement read.
"Gigginstown wishes to sincerely thank Willie and all the team at Closutton for the many Grade One races we have won together over the past seven years.
"We hope that an agreement can be reached at some time in the future which will allow Willie to resume buying and training more graded winners for us."
It is believed that Joseph O'Brien will be among the trainers to get some of the 60 horses distributed by Gigginstown and that the disagreement in price came about when Mullins upped his fees for a horse in training from €50 to €55 a day.
While Gordon Elliott is expected to be the main beneficiary of the move given his established close association with Gigginstown, it is expected that Grand National-winning trainer Mouse Morris, former champion trainer Noel Meade and Henry de Bromhead, who is to train a third of Gigginstown's point-to-pointers this season, will all receive extra horses as a result of the split.
As well as sending shock waves through the industry, the move also got the bookmakers to work and given the strong connection between the champion owner and Gold Cup-winning trainer Gordon Elliott, the Meath native is now favourite with Paddy Power to be champion trainer in Ireland this season.
Despite Mullins describing the loss of horses of that calibre as "extremely difficult to replace", that move by the bookmakers may well be seen as something of an over-reaction. While Elliott is undoubtedly closing the gap on Mullins, he would have to turn around almost €2m of a deficit from last season.
As it currently stands, with all the big prizes still up for grabs, Elliott is just shy of €100,000 in front of Mullins and has run three times as many horses since the season began. Betting for the British trainers championship has also been shaken up by the news, with Willie Mullins drifting from 11/8 out to 3/1 with BoyleSports and Paul Nicholls has gone from 8/11 to 1/5 to retain his crown now that Mullins is unlikely to have quite as much firepower to split up in each division.
Among the horses to exit Closutton are last season's Lexus Chase winner Don Poli - market leader for the Aintree Grand National - and the sensational Apple's Jade who, despite only finishing second in the Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham, went on to win a Grade One at Aintree by 41 lengths and backed that up at Punchestown by nine lengths.
Mullins will also lose last season's Punchestown Champion Bumper winner Blow By Blow, who would look likely to be a leading novice hurdler this season.
Meanwhile, trainer Tony Martin, who lost his Gigginstown horses last season, is set to join Mullins in a tilt at the Emirates Melbourne Cup.
Shares in Martin's Ebor winner, Heartbreak City, have been sold to Australian Thoroughbred Bloodstock, who will combine with the Here For The Craic Syndicate as the horse tackles 'the race that stops a nation'.
"An Australian group have got involved, I don't know what percentage, but the original men are still very much there," said Martin.
"He was in the Cesarewitch, he was in a lot of things, but the intention is to get him qualified for quarantine and send him for the Melbourne Cup.
"It's a handicap. He's in off a racing weight and he has a right to be there."