Irish racing has suffered an unexpected setback today with the news that Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary, who has invested millions in the game via his Gigginstown House Stud operation, is to scale down over the next four to five years.
O'Leary told the Irish Field that he would not be buying any more young horses, with the intention of winding down his involvement to concentrate on family commitments.
The maroon silks of Gigginstown have been tremendously successful in the National Hunt sphere, allowing Irish horses to punch above their weight at the Cheltenham and Aintree Festivals across the water.
O'Leary's colours were represented by Tiger Roll, who recently completed back to back wins in the Aintree Grand National. O'Leary has also tasted success in the Cheltenham Gold Cup with War of Attrition and Don Cossack.
Michael's brother, Eddie O'Leary, who is heavily involved in the operation, said:
"Michael is a big family man and his children are now growing up and given his very extensive work commitments, he now wants to spend more time with his wife and family. As a result we are not going to be buying any more store horses or young horses. We've just had the best season we have ever had in Ireland 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."
Michael O'Leary added:
"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 saddles most of his horses with Meath trainer Gordon Elliott, but also has stock with Henry De Bromhead in Waterford.