Sport Horse Racing

Wednesday 7 December 2016

Willie Mullins says split with Michael O'Leary 'purely over money'

Champion trainer and owner part ways after successful partnership

Published 29/09/2016 | 02:30

Trainer Willie Mullins and jockey Davy Russell with Michael and Anita O’Leary in 2013. Photo: Pat Healy
Trainer Willie Mullins and jockey Davy Russell with Michael and Anita O’Leary in 2013. Photo: Pat Healy

Champion horse trainer Willie Mullins doesn't see either side backing down in the disagreement which saw Michael O'Leary withdraw 60 of his horses from Mullins' stable.

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It emerged yesterday that the country's most successful trainer and the leading owner of jump horses have gone their separate ways after an enormously successful relationship.

Michael and Anita O’Leary with Don Poli in the winner’s enclosure at Cheltenham. Photo:
Ramsey Cardy
Michael and Anita O’Leary with Don Poli in the winner’s enclosure at Cheltenham. Photo: Ramsey Cardy

A decision by Mr Mullins to increase his fees by 10pc drove a wedge between him and the Ryanair chief executive's Gigginstown House Stud as Mr O'Leary refused to pay.

Mr O'Leary has kept quiet about the split. But a statement issued through Ryanair thanked Mr Mullins and his team at Closutton for the grade-one races they won together over seven years.

"We have agreed - with considerable regret - to move the Gigginstown horses to alternative trainers for the coming 2016/17 season," it said.

Read more: Willie Mullins to lose 'around 60 horses' after splitting with Gigginstown House Stud over fee dispute

Speaking to the Irish Independent, renowned trainer Mr Mullins said the only issue behind the split was money and suggested it was unlikely to be reversed.

"I don't even want to comment on that. It's done as far as I'm concerned. And I can't see Michael moving, I can't see me moving. What's done is done and that's it," he said.

Mr Mullins said he had not raised his fees for nine years and it seemed Mr O'Leary wanted to change the rules regarding treating all clients of the stable equally. "I took a stand and that was always the way. Everyone that comes into my yard is treated the same. And that's the way it was from day one when Michael came. I told him that they're the rules. I think he was maybe asking to change the rules a bit," he said.

The trainer said he hoped the decision to withdraw the horses by one of his biggest clients did not result in job losses for his stable.

"I hope not, we have to look at how things are going in the next few days. But I hope I don't see any immediate job losses.

"Lots of people have indicated that they're sending horses and we will see how it goes.

"I have a great team and I've always said that. And I'm hoping that I can keep it together," he said.

Mr Mullins said he wrote to Mr O'Leary months ago to tell him of the increase.

"Basically, it's very simple. We haven't put up our fees for nine years and we have to do it.

"Michael decided he was going to give me so much for training his horses and I thought to maintain the standards we have, I couldn't do it for that.

"He said he wasn't going to pay and I said well, if you're not going to pay you can't have horses. So, that was it. He made an offer and I refused it," he said. "It was purely over fees. I mean we didn't have any other problem," he said.

Mr Mullins said he had a big yard with a big wage bill and rising costs.

Read more: The five Gigginstown horses that Willie Mullins will miss most

Irish Independent

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