This week it was announced that Gigginstown Stud would wind down operations over the coming years, with a view to exiting horse racing in Ireland in the medium term. With national hunt horses as young as four years old, this could take 6-7 years to play out, assuming the plan remains the same.
What a blow this must be to many people involved in racing throughout Ireland. The maroon and white of Gigginstown have become famous over the past decade or more, and have enjoyed incredible success both in Ireland and the UK. Probably the most notable example of this (and there are many) is Tiger Roll's back-to-back Grand National successes this year and last. It seems strange to imagine not seeing the famous colours in the years ahead.
The economic impact if this on Irish horse racing will be sizeable. A gradual exit will help soften the blow, but there are few that have put as much money into horse racing in this country in recent times. Of course, there is an upside; that of competition within races.
Quite some time ago now, John Considine addressed the issue of concentration in ownership prize money winnings. Since then anyone that watches national hunt racing in Ireland will be aware of the concentration in the sport, particularly at the elite end of the spectrum. Two trainers and a handful of owners now dominate the sport. Gigginstowns' part in this is obvious, with the owners regularly running multiple runners in Grade 1, 2 and 3 races. In recent years, the owners ran large numbers of horses in big handicap chases and were known to run into double figures in races such as the Irish Grand National. I even recall watching a grade race a couple of seasons ago with just three runners, all of whom ran in the maroon and white.
The decision to leave will have consequences both economic and and on the sporting front. Ireland's haul at Cheltenham may not reach the same heights as recent years but domestic racing should become more competitive. Many small trainers and owners could get their day in the sun in the seasons ahead.