A training fees row appears to have cost Willie Mullins a team of 60 Gigginstown Stud horses on the cusp of the National Hunt season, leaving Gordon Elliott and Paul Nicholls in prime positions to grab the Irish and UK Trainers' Championships respectively...
Willie Mullins has suffered a major knock to his dominant position as Ireland's leading jumps trainer with the news that Gigginstown have removed all 60 horses from his County Carlow yard.
The decision appears to have been made after Mullins upped his training fees for the first time in 10 years.
In an interview with ATR, Mullins said: "We're parting company. It's basically over fees, I'd imagine. I put my fees up for the first time in 10 years and Gigginstown chose not to pay them.
"We've evolved our methods of training, which obviously costs a lot, and we're not prepared to sacrifice that.
"They've been very good to us over the years, they've bought some fantastic horses and there's a fantastic team of horses going to whoever is going to get them, I don't know where they are going to go. It's only been in the last few hours this has come about. I wish them the best, it's the way it is, we move on."
The previously all-conquering Mullins will be without some very capable horses for the 2017 National Hunt season including Gold Cup and Grand National contender Don Poli, Apple's Jade, Valseur Lido and Outlander
Mullins, who came so close to astonishing win of the British Trainers' Championship last year, is now just the even money second favourite to win the Irish crown behind 8/11 Gordon Elliott, who may well take many of the Gigginstown team. Mullins has won the Irish Championship for the last nine years.
Betfair Ambassador Paul Nicholls has shortened in the betting on the UK Championship, now available to back at 1/5. Mullins is out to 3/1 from 6/4. Nicky Henderson looks the only rival to the two at 6/1.
Betfair's Barry Orr said: "In previous years the top Irish National Hunt trainers market has been a non-event for punters, such has been the Closutton handler's dominance but, with Gordon Elliott the most likely beneficiary of the falling-out, we make him 8/11 to loosen Willie's stranglehold with the perennial champion trainer out to even money to retain his title."