‘Brexit will be a doddle’ says Willie Mullins

Cheltenham’s most successful trainer says racing will manage changes from UK exit

Trainer Willie Mullins, the biggest transporter of horses to Cheltenham this year, says he is ’not at all’ worried about the UK’s exit from the EU and the potential impact it might have on the movement of animals. File photograph: David Davies/PA Wire.

Trainer Willie Mullins, the biggest transporter of horses to Cheltenham this year, says he is ’not at all’ worried about the UK’s exit from the EU and the potential impact it might have on the movement of animals. File photograph: David Davies/PA Wire.

 

The racing industry had to deal with issues around travel before the EU and will be able to cope after Brexit, said Willie Mullins, the Irish trainer who yesterday won the Cheltenham Gold Cup for the first time.

Red tape around Brexit would bear no comparison with the new UK veterinary protocol for his horses at the jump-racing festival, introduced after February’s equine flu outbreak, Carlow-based Mullins said.

The trainer raised fears last weekend that horses may be forced to miss the festival due to irregularities with their passports or documentation after new procedures were introduced following the outbreak.

“If Brexit ever comes, I’d say Brexit will be a doddle,” he said, by way of comparison.

The trainer, who was the biggest transporter of horses to Cheltenham this year, said he was “not at all” worried about the UK’s exit and the potential impact that it might have on the movement of animals.

“I think we’d just get used to it. Before Brexit, before the EU, we used to have to do all of this,” he said.

Mullins, the Cheltenham Festival’s most winning trainer, broke his Gold Cup hoodoo this week when Al Boum Photo finally landed the Kilkenny man the famous trophy after training the runner-up six times.

Transit of horses

A tripartite agreement between Ireland, the UK and France, supported by EU law, permits the transit of horses between the countries without the animals having to be inspected by vets or subject to health checks.

A no-deal exit by the UK could collapse the agreement, leading to checks on horses entering the UK and raising the possibility of delays at ports with the transit of horses.

Mullins expected arrangements to be made to ease the transit of horses, given the value of the equine industry – from breeding, training and racing, to the economy and the number of people it employs.

“I am sure the ports will put different staff on to accommodate racing and the horse industry. It is a big industry. There are so many people involved in the workforce in the industry. It will be looked after by the port authorities or whoever is in charge,” he said.

Optimistic

The former jockey from Goresbridge, who has more than 60 winners at Cheltenham Festival, was optimistic that the industry would cope.

“I am not fearful of it at all – I think it will be managed. There might be a little bit of disruption early on but once you get into the rhythm of things, like anything, you will get used to it,” he said.

Irish racing and breeding generated expenditure of €1.84 billion and supported 28,900 jobs in 2016, according to a 2017 economic impact study conducted by consultants Deloitte for Horse Racing Ireland.