Wednesday 24 January 2018

Willie Mullins calls on Cheltenham Grade One prize-money 'to be at least doubled'

Willie Mullins
Willie Mullins

Ashley Iveson

Willie Mullins has called for prize-money for the Grade Ones at the Cheltenham Festival "to be at least doubled".

The Irish champion jumps trainer believes National Hunt racing lacks an end-of-season crescendo compared to the Flat, with a significant cash injection crucial to injecting new life into the sport.

He said: "I think jumps racing is such a huge ambassador for racing.

"Apart from the Grand National, which is a handicap, our major prize (Gold Cup) is probably (worth) the price of an expensive National Hunt horse.

"For me, that's not fair and it's not on considering what owners do for the sport of racing.

"I'd like to see a Champions day, or weekend, in jumps racing.

"When I see what happens in Punchestown over five days, with Grade Ones every day, it's a natural end to both seasons (British and Ireland) and fits in beautifully after Cheltenham and Aintree.

"Possibly England could do the same and maybe the prize-money in Cheltenham for the Grade One races could be at least doubled, if not more."

Mullins also feels jumps racing is missing out on a glorious opportunity to promote itself by not staging better quality action during the week.

He said: "In racing, people aspire to go to Cheltenham.

"In 20 years' time if midweek racing goes into weekend racing, they are just going to be lost in the middle of soccer matches and rugby matches and everything.

"That's why I feel midweek racing is so crucial to our sport.

"They have everything to themselves, without any other sport.

"Certainly as an advertisement for the sport midweek racing is, to me, where it's at.

"It has the floor to itself at that time of year and it's a trick that shouldn't be missed.

"We should go one step further now and introduce some mega racing, with a Champions Day- or Breeders' Cup-type meeting.

"The meetings are there, but I think the prize-money should rise for those big races.

"They are just marginally bigger than what you can get any Saturday.

"We should reward people who've put the money in to get more back out and there doesn't seem to be that willingness to do it.

"National Hunt racing is at a sort of a crossroads. The top end is going very well but the bottom end is not.

"We've seen what they've done with Flat racing.

"I think it's time to get on our bike and do it with jumps racing."

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