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O'Leary's shock racing exit a blow: Elliott

 

Tiger feat: Michael O’Leary (right) with Gordon Elliott and last month’s Grand National winner Tiger Roll
Tiger feat: Michael O’Leary (right) with Gordon Elliott and last month’s Grand National winner Tiger Roll

By Anita Chambers

Grand National-winning owner Michael O'Leary has announced he will phase out his National Hunt team over the next five years.

O'Leary's Gigginstown House Stud operation is one of the biggest in the jumping world, with horses such as dual National hero Tiger Roll and Cheltenham Gold Cup winners War Of Attrition and Don Cossack sporting the famous maroon and white silks.

However, O'Leary plans to reduce his interests over the coming years - with the decision not to buy any more young or store horses signalling the beginning of the end for his team, although his colours will be seen for some time yet.

The Ryanair boss said in a statement: "We wish to sincerely thank all our trainers and their teams for the enormous success we've enjoyed over the past decade, but as my children are growing into teenagers I am spending more and more of my time at their activities and I have less and less time for National Hunt racing, a situation that will continue for the foreseeable future.

"I hope that by running down our string over an extended four or five-year period it will give our trainers ample time to replace our horses without disruption."

O'Leary, who lives at Gigginstown House Stud in County Westmeath, first owned horses on the Flat before becoming involved in jumps racing - with War Of Attrition's Cheltenham success in 2006 firing the team into the headlines.

The Gigginstown team has included a wealth of stars since then - with Don Cossack adding another Gold Cup in 2016 and Rule The World landing a first Grand National the same year.

The likes of prolific mare Apple's Jade, Road To Respect and Samcro have been some recent headline-grabbers for the Gigginstown squad - with the 922 runners in the most recent Irish campaign a current indication as to the scale of the operation.

O'Leary's brother Eddie has long acted as racing manager for Gigginstown.

He added: "Michael's children are now growing, and their activities are leaving less and less time for racing - last season and for the foreseeable future.

"We've just had our best season ever in terms of winners, and it's been an amazing year capped by Tiger Roll winning the Grand National for the second time."

Meanwhile, Gordon Elliott admits O'Leary's decision is a blow, but is keen to focus on the future and enjoy his remaining years training for the team.

Elliott has enjoyed staunch support from O'Leary during his training career, and the pair enjoyed a spectacular high just last month when Tiger Roll became the first horse since Red Rum to secure back-to-back victories in the Grand National at Aintree.

Before that historic success, Elliott also sent out Gigginstown's Don Cossack to win the 2016 Cheltenham Gold Cup.

He said: "Gigginstown have been very, very good to me all through my career so far. They've really supported me, and we've been lucky to have some great horses and great days together.

"It is a blow, obviously - they have plenty of horses with us.

"But there are a lot of other owners in the yard, and we've proven we can train - so hopefully other owners will come in."

As well as Tiger Roll and Don Cossack, Elliott trains Gigginstown's prolific mare Apple's Jade and also houses Grade One-winning hurdler Samcro.

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