Monday 14 October 2019

'Something has to get eliminated and horses were the least worst option' – Michael O'Leary on racing exit

Michael O'Leary. Photo: Getty
Michael O'Leary. Photo: Getty
Michael Verney

Michael Verney

Family will come first in the future for Michael O'Leary with the Ryanair chief admitting that his racing interests were always the most likely to lose out as he begins to wind down his powerful operation due to time demands.

There was widespread shock across the industry when the Gigginstown House Stud boss decided to phase out his racing ownership earlier this year as the Grand National and Cheltenham Gold Cup-winning owner began to prioritise other things in his life.

No new stock will be purchased – while 31 Gigginstown horses were sold on earlier this month – as he needs "fewer and fewer distractions" over the coming years with a young family taking priority.

Speaking at a Reuters Newsmakers event in London, the pragmatic O'Leary insisted that it was time he put his family first, with his famous maroon and white silks set to leave Irish and UK race tracks in the next four to five years.

"The thought process was (that) for the next five years I need fewer and fewer distractions. I now have four children between the ages of nine and 14," O'Leary said.

"I am incredibly busy on the weekends, taking them to their various activities, collecting them from school, dropping them back, all that kind of stuff.

"Something has to get eliminated, so it's either you eliminate the children, you eliminate the airline or you eliminate the racehorses. It seemed to me that the racehorses were the least worst option!"

O'Leary will bid for his place in Grand National history next year, however, as Tiger Roll bids to become the first three-time winner of the Aintree showpiece since Red Rum, and the first to complete the hat-trick in successive years.

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