Saturday 22 July 2017

'I would be back with Willie Mullins in a heartbeat' - Michael O'Leary opens up about split

Michael O'Leary and Willie Mullins split last year in a dispute over fees
Michael O'Leary and Willie Mullins split last year in a dispute over fees
Cormac Byrne

Cormac Byrne

Outspoken Ryanair chief Michael O'Leary has left the door ajar on a possibility of working with Willie Mullins again.

Michael O'Leary changed the landscape of Irish national hunt racing when he removed his 60 horses from Willie Mullins Closutton operation last summer.

Mullins went from coming within a whisker of winning both the Irish and British champion trainer titles last season to trailing Gordon Elliott by just over €400k in the Irish champions trainer standings this term.

While Mullins continues to visit the winner's enclosure regularly, the bigger pots have been spread out more evenly among the top Irish trainers over the past nine months.

Speaking on Yates on Sinday on Newstalk, O'Leary was asked why he split with Mullins over fees when he's a billionaire.

"It's more than a few bob, I had 60 horses with Willie and it adds up to a lot of bob on a monthly basis," he said.

"He's a brilliant trainer but he decided to put up his fees by 10pc last year. He was the only trainer putting up his fees.

"That was the sole issue. I'd have horses with Willie next week as long as we could reach an agreement on training fees but I don't expect us to reach an agreement on training fees.

Either Willie backs down or I back down and I don't see either of us being individual who back down.

"I would be back there in a heartbeat as long as we could reach an agreement on fees."

O'Leary suggested that Elliott would not be sending that strong a team to Aintree this week, because he is focusing on Fairyhouse and Punchestown in an attempt to cement his advantage in the race for the Irish trainer's title.

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