Gigginstown House Stud boss Michael O'Leary shocks racing world with winding down annoucement

Tiger Roll and connections celebrate
Tiger Roll and connections celebrate

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 last month.

"We have lots of young stock to be allocated among our trainers over the coming weeks, and each of our trainers will receive their usual allocation of young point-to-pointers."

It's a second successive Randox Health Grand National win for Tiger Roll
It's a second successive Randox Health Grand National win for Tiger Roll

Five of the best

We look at five of the best horses to have carried the famous maroon and white silks...

Tiger Roll (Gordon Elliott)

It is impossible not to put the remarkable nine-year-old at the top of any Gigginstown list. A four-time winner at the Cheltenham Festival, his place in the history books is secure following back-to-back Grand National victories at Aintree in April - the first to do so since the great Red Rum.

Rule The World (Mouse Morris)

Sent off at 33-1 for the National in 2016, the then nine-year-old got the better of The Last Samuri under teenage jockey David Mullins, to spark jubilant scenes. What made it all the more extraordinary was that Rule The World was still qualified for novice chases and had previously not won over fences.

War Of Attrition (Mouse Morris)

A huge talent both over hurdles and fences, War Of Attrition gave O'Leary a golden moment when winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2006, beating Hedgehunter by two and a half lengths. He went on to land the Punchestown equivalent, and bagged four Grade Ones in total.

Don Cossack (Gordon Elliott)

Ten years on from War Of Attrition, and Don Cossack provided O'Leary with another Gold Cup - running out a four-and-a-half-length scorer from Djakadam. Sadly an injury meant the six-time Grade One winner did not run again after his Cheltenham heroics.

Apple's Jade (Willie Mullins/Gordon Elliott)

As good as any horse associated with the O'Leary team, the mare started off with Willie Mullins, before joining Gordon Elliott. It is a measure of her class that of her 14 career wins, 10 have come at the top level - and she has led them home at the Cheltenham, Aintree and Punchestown festivals.


More Grand National celebrations for the Tiger Roll team
More Grand National celebrations for the Tiger Roll team

Michael O'Leary Factfile

Born: March 20 1961, in Kanturk, County Cork

Married: Anita, 2003. Four children

Based: Gigginstown House Stud, covering more than 1,000 acres at Delvin near Mullingar, Co Westmeath, Ireland

First winner: Tuco, Fairyhouse, May 5, 2001

Cheltenham Gold Cup wins: War Of Attrition (2006), Don Cossack (2016)

Grand National wins: Rule The World (2016), Tiger Roll (2018, 2019)

Irish Grand National wins: Thunder And Roses (2015), Rogue Angel (2016), General Principle (2018)

Total number of Cheltenham Festival winners: 27

Other information: O'Leary became chief executive of Ryanair in 1994. His worth was valued at £908 million in the 2018 Sunday Times Rich List, thanks mainly to his significant shareholding in the airline.


Gigginstown news - Q&A

Why has Michael O'Leary decided to end his racing interests?

O'Leary has four children, and has cited a desire to spend more time with them and his wife Anita over the coming years - meaning he has less time to invest in racing.

Just how big an owner is he?

Gigginstown has more than 250 horses in training in Ireland, mainly split between Gordon Elliott, Henry de Bromhead, Noel Meade and Joseph O'Brien. He also owns Gigginstown House Stud, which covers more than 1,000 acres in County Westmeath, and has horses in pre-training with Pat Doyle, among others, overseeing point-to-point interests.

Right, so this sounds like pretty bad news for those trainers then?

A major owner announcing his intention to leave the sport is never good news, but O'Leary has been at pains to point out this will be a gradual wind-down, so his current handlers have time to adjust to the news and try to attract new horses to fill the space eventually left by the Gigginstown runners.

Who will feel the effects first?

O'Leary's announcement that he will not be buying any more horses will impact breeders in the first instance, with no plans for any future purchasing of store horses at the sales. He also will no longer be buying out of the point-to-point field, so producers in that sphere will also feel the pinch. Without the Gigginstown cash in the market, prices may well take a hit.

This all sounds a bit bleak - are there any upsides to this news?

The Gigginstown domination has been very evident in big races in recent seasons, so there is the argument that the phased departure of the owner could open up the field for others - and if they are not spending, the market for the very best horses could become more reachable for some.


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