Mike Cattermole: Swings & roundabouts
Top racing broadcaster Mike Cattermole reflects on the latest major talking points in racing in his latest exclusive column.
Mullins: Won't be training any Gigginstown horses this season
Mullins v Gigginstown – who will lose out?
Colm Murphy retiring, Alan Potts taking his horses away from Henry de Bromhead and now, by far the biggest of all, Gigginstown House Stud and Willie Mullins going their separate ways. What on earth is going on in Ireland right now?
From what we are led to believe, the Gigginstown team took the drastic and unexpected action after Mullins decided to put up his training fees. But is there more to it than that, though, we wonder? I doubt it is down to affordability so was the price hike the last straw?
Certainly, the no-nonsense approach from the Michael and Eddie O'Leary seems clearer and more defined than ever. In May, they removed their horses trained by both Tony Martin and Sandra Hughes; no matter that Hughes was working hard to keep the business afloat after her father Dessie's passing 18 months earlier. Eddie O'Leary explained bluntly that they are "in the results business."
On that front, they can have no cause for complaint then from what they got from Closutton – or maybe they can. Perhaps all of those Grade One winners trained for the Riccis, courtesy of the likes of Douvan, Vautour, Annie Power, Vroum Vroum Mag et al, grated with the O'Leary brothers, not to mention other winners at the top level for Graham Wylie (Bellshill, Yorkhill, Black Hercules etc) and also for several other owners.
Perhaps they expected more than just Don Poli, Apple's Jade, Blow By Blow and Outlander who all did it at the top level in the maroon and white colours in the past season.
Certainly, others are going to benefit hugely by taking on some of the estimated 60 horses that are being taken away and Gordon Elliott looks likely to profit the most. It sounds too like there will be a few more for Grand National hero Mouse Morris and also for Henry de Bromhead, who, if so, will no doubt reflect on the swings and roundabouts of his profession.
It seems unlikely that the O'Learys will decide to change tack and send a few across the water to Britain, so this seismic shake-up will be confined to Ireland.
It will be fascinating to see how Mullins, champion trainer for every season since 2008-9, will cope with this huge loss and whether Gigginstown will come to regret their actions. Only time will tell who will suffer the most from this break-up of Brangelina proportions!
Arc weekend still the best
Those behind QIPCO British Champions Day at Ascot in just over a fortnight's time will know that Arc weekend still holds the number one spot for the Flat racing purist. You can't help thinking that the gap is shrinking though.
And of course, Almanzor, the best three-year-old in Europe, will be Chantilly's loss and Ascot's gain as he is heading for the Champion Stakes. That is a coup.
The Arc has opened up a bit since La Cressonniere was sidelined this week. She will be a big miss and Postponed must now have a major chance. He is a wonderful racehorse who, now five, will get a chance to tackle Europe's most prestigious prize while at the height of his physical powers. Not many get that opportunity.
However, New Bay shaped with plenty of promise in the Irish Champion Stakes and I reckon that the old master Andre Fabre is going to have him in A1 shape on Sunday afternoon. Third to Golden Horn last year and prepped by the man responsible for seven Arc winners, he is value at 12-1 with Sky Bet.
One other horse who intrigues me a bit is Zarak, who has been second best to Almanzor on a couple of occasions this year, including on this course in the Prix du Jockey Club. He is son of Dubawi and the mighty Zarkava who was so imperious in the Arc in 2008.
Oddly, Zarak was dropped back to a mile last time on this course in the Moulin and didn't actually run that badly. I reckon the step up in trip will bring about some improvement. He is a 33-1 shot with Sky Bet but is no forlorn hope.
Bath racecourse gets thumbs-up
Have you been racing at Bath recently? I hadn't for a couple of years but was back there again on Monday. Wow! What a difference!
Bath had reached its lowest point when the sewers flooded the jockeys' changing room at the end of the 2013 season and it wouldn't have been a long price about racing continuing there, such was the overall condition of the course's infrastructure. One of the stands had also been fenced off on health and safety grounds.
It is never the easiest place to commentate at but being drawn to go there in the past never filled me with much glee anyway. That has all changed.
The new Langridge Stand, which would not be out of place at Goodwood, features an open but covered Roof Terrace bar and the new Royal Crescent Restaurant, which has seating for 200. There is also a roomy bar on the ground floor. It is all beautifully appointed and tastefully finished. I was most impressed.
The Kelston Stand, which overlooks the parade ring, has also been gutted and finished to a very high standard. The speed at which all this has been done is impressive as the plans were only mooted a year ago.
Outside, there is a new Coffeemakers café as well as two new bars, which add to a totally different experience to before.
Fair play to ARC. Their old reputation of never spending any money is surely long gone now. I am off to Newcastle next month and looking forward to seeing at close hand what's been done there, too.
Derby County – what a mess!
I always felt, when observing him in his post-match interviews recently, that Nigel Pearson was spoiling for a fight. Well, it sounds as though he has had one – and I'm guessing a mighty big one – with Derby County's Club Chairman, Mel Morris, which means that it looks as though he could be on his way out of the IPro Stadium.
It has been a poor start to the season in the SkyBet Championship for The Rams – and how ironic that, with assistant manager Chris Powell at the helm on Tuesday night, they managed to actually win a game at Cardiff. Something has been clearly amiss with a squad which is teeming with talent and had been expensively assembled.
It is three years since Nigel Clough was sacked – though God knows why – and since then Derby have had Steve McClaren, Paul Clement, Darren Wassall before Pearson, so they are now facing appointing their fifth manager in just three years.
I don't know about you, but this is no way to run a football club. Not all of the blame lies with Morris. Although he has been involved in running the club since 2006, he only became outright owner in September, 2015. However, even since then, we have been through three managers.
Morris is Derby-born-and-bred and has had an amazingly successful career as a businessman. He is passionate about the club and will do anything to get them back into the Premier League, including spending his own hard-earned millions.
But something is not right and perhaps Morris and his team of directors at the club would be wise to pause and take stock. Whatever they are doing at the moment is not working that well.
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