Ryanair chief O'Leary puts children before horses in blow to racing

Dublin (AFP) –


Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary is to wind down his National Hunt racing operation over the next five years, he revealed in a surprise move on Tuesday.

O'Leary recently celebrated Tiger Roll securing his second successive Grand National win.

But the 58-year-old Irishman says as his children grow into their teens he is required to devote more time to their pursuits than spending it on the racetrack.

Even with the gradual winding down of his Gigginstown Stud operation the decision is likely to have a significant impact on several trainers -- most notably Tiger Roll's handler Gordon Elliott -- and will affect prices in the marketplace.

According to The Racing Post, Gigginstown had 225 horses in training last season with six trainers, with Elliott having by far the largest number.

O'Leary -- whose brother Eddie has provided the equine expertise when it comes to buying the horses -- has enjoyed some spectacular successes on the track.

He has been champion owner in Ireland seven times and last season he won four million euros in prize money, topping the owners' list for a fifth successive year. He also has two victories in the blue riband race, The Cheltenham Gold Cup, and three Grand National triumphs.

Many are hoping Tiger Roll bids for an historic third successive win in the world's most famous steeplechase after he this year became the first horse since Red Rum 45 years ago to win back-to-back editions.

"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," Michael O'Leary said, thanking all the trainers for their contribution to his success.

He added: "But as my children are growing into teenagers, I'm 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."

Eddie O'Leary said their many trainers will still be receiving fresh blood in the near future.

"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," he said.

"Each and every one of those horses will remain in the Gigginstown colours (maroon with a white star and white armlets) for the entirety of their career, so hopefully we can have many more great days to look forward to."