In news that has sent shockwaves through the UK and Irish horse racing circuit, Michael O’Leary has announced his decision to slowly phase out his involvement in the Gigginstown House Stud over a five-year period.
The Irishman has been the key investor in the network for a number of years, and the Gigginstown Stud is one of the world’s premier producers of world-class horses, responsible for the likes of the history-making Tiger Roll and Cheltenham Gold Cup champions Don Cossack and War of Attrition.
They also play a key role in the sale of horses both in the UK and Ireland, and their presence in domestic racing will be missed.
Too Much to Do, Too Little Time
O’Leary, who has worked closely with champion trainer Gordon Elliott, has decided to spend more time with family and other projects.
He intends to reduce his involvement in the coming years, and that means he won’t be investing in any young horses for his training yard or store horses either. It is, in essence, the slow death of the Gigginstown operation.
But there should be four or five more years of the famous maroon silks to enjoy. O’Leary, who also owns Ryanair, said:
“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 also confirmed he would not be looking to restock during the current sales period.
His brother, Eddie, has confirmed the move, telling reporters:
“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.”
Irish Racing Mourns a Great Loss
Quite where Irish racing goes from here is another question, with some 225 horses from the Gigginstown line competing for six separate trainers last season; including, most notably, Elliott, who will now begin searching for a new ownership team to work with in domestic racing.
Breeders and sellers will also be impacted by the decision, while the point-to-point circuit will be dealt a cruel blow with the Irish firm central to much of the action.
Tiger Roll’s landmark triumph was O’Leary’s third in the last four years, and in landing £4 million in prize money last season the Gigginstown operation once again topped the owners’ championship in Ireland – the fifth year in succession that they had come out on top.