Elliott gets cream as Mullins axed
Gordon Elliott will get up to 20 horses arising from the shock split between champion owner Gigginstown and champion trainer Willie Mullins, notably Apple’s Jade and Don Poli.
Don Cossack’s trainer admitted shock at the news that increased training fees prompted Michael O’Leary to pull 60 horses from Mullins. Mouse Morris, Henry de Bromhead, Joseph O’Brien and Noel Meade are to share the remainder.
Incredibly, Elliott was put in at odds-on favourite with Paddy Power to win the Irish trainers’ title next season, though they revised that after Mullins was backed to retain his long-held crown at even money.
As well as Apple’s Jade, a sensational juvenile hurdler last season, and Gold Cup third Don Poli, Elliott will get top-class chaser Outlander and unbeaten bumper winner Lucky Pass.
“Willie is a gentleman, a man I admire and look up to. This is another step up the ladder towards being champion trainer one day I hope,” Elliott said.
Mullins, Irish champion trainer for the past nine years, said that there was no more to the story than O'Leary refusing to accept a 10pc rise in fees.
"I contacted my owners to say I was having my first fee rise in nine years," he told the Irish Independent. "Michael came back, wasn't happy and said he was taking the horses away.
"It was simply over fees. The standard of training we have is expensive - between gallops, staff and so on - and in order to maintain and improve, we needed to bring in that increase. The other owners did not object."
Gigginstown issued a statement thanking Mullins for their fruitful relationship, which began somewhat belatedly in 2010. Michael O'Leary and brother Eddie had reached the decision, the statement said, "with considerable regret".
It added: "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."
Mullins said that he had seen too many trainers go out of business in recent times - Colm Murphy the most recent victim - not to hold his ground when it came to setting charges.
"I know what it costs in the yard. I've seen enough guys go out of the game at this stage," he said.
The move is certain to narrow the gap between Mullins and main rival Elliott. Asked if any staff would lose their jobs, Mullins added: "I hope not."