“Successful a Gold Cup is like intercourse – you at all times keep in mind your first time!” – Michael O’Leary on Cheltenham’s greatest prize
RYANAIR millionaire Michael O’Leary says “profitable a Gold Cup is like intercourse – you at all times keep in mind your first time!”
I’ve by no means considered it that method.
However that is most likely as a result of I will by no means have the winner of a Cheltenham Gold Cup.
A minimum of I’ve a reminiscence of one of many two, although not a very nice one.
O’Leary has skilled each. And the Gold Cup not as soon as, however twice. He is positively not a Competition virgin, that is for positive.
And he has a 3rd likelihood to win the last word prize with Conflated operating in Gigginstown Home Stud colours within the huge one.
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There is not any denying that the businessman is a love-or-hate character, one thing a few of us are conscious of, however I discover his enthusiasm contagious.
He appears like a buzzing bee once I discuss to him in his luxurious Ryanair workplaces in Dublin.
The 61-year-old is well mannered. Nice enjoyable. He will get plates and buys lunch!
However, boy, is he troubled.
Identical to the jet engines on his planes, you may virtually really feel his thoughts churning always.
At all times in overdrive. You surprise if he ever stands nonetheless.
By the way, he’s within the workplace working most days and runs Ryanair extra like a household enterprise than the rest.
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So is profitable the Gold Cup with Conflated the last word for a 900 million man. As he informed me, nobody is aware of the precise quantity, most likely not even him.
“It is crucial race for me by far,” explains O’Leary.
“It is what everybody desires to win at Cheltenham. I would take it over the Champion Hurdle, the Grand Nationwide or the Derby and some other race.”
It appears O’Leary was bitten by the racing bug in his early years.
He tells me: “As a child the primary race I ever watched was the Grand Nationwide, I keep in mind the TV protection beginning at 11am and we watched all day.
“However I believe you are naturally drawn to the Gold Cup. It is the top and the very best hunters and the very best horses normally win it.”
I boldly recommend the Gold Cup is a greater race than Ryanair.
O’Leary pauses, cringes, then says: “I believe it is a shut run, however historical past will let you know it is marginally higher than the Ryanair Chase.
“However the Ryanair Chase is coming domestically and that is why we have prolonged our sponsorship for an additional 4 or 5 years, which takes us round 22 years of sponsorship.”
O’Leary has gained the Gold Cup twice with Conflict of Attrition in 2006 and Don Cossack ten years later.
“Conflict of Attrition was educated by Mouse Morris and ridden by Conor O’Dwyer. He was actually a two-and-a-half-mile horse however had harm issues as a novice hunter.
“He was an ideal chaser however after he beat him he had a tendon harm and he was by no means the identical once more.
“Like intercourse, you at all times keep in mind your first Gold Cup.
“On my deathbed I’ll keep in mind the delivery of my 4 kids, the wedding to my spouse and the conflict of attrition that gained the Gold Cup.”
Don Cossack was a monster as a Bumper animal, however then he misplaced his method over obstacles. O’Leary says: “He was a brilliant chaser, and it took us some time to work him. AP rode him within the Melling Chase and beat him and gained by a margin.
“Bryan Cooper gave him an terrible journey within the King George, then an ideal one within the Gold Cup. That was very memorable as we had a poor Competition to date that yr.”
Now O’Leary depends on Conflated, who fell within the Ryanair final yr however comes into the primary occasion off the again of a Grade 1 success within the Savills Chase at Leopardstown.
So what likelihood does he suppose he has? Prime contender O’Leary’s extra straight talker says: “I believe we actually haven’t got an opportunity.
“If Galopin Des Champs will get up, he’ll win. If one thing goes mistaken with him, it is fairly an open race and I believe Conflated has the standard to win a median Gold Cup.
“He is not a famous person. “We took him to Ryanair final yr and he was most likely going too quick. The three miles and two furlongs will go well with him and he has gained two Grade 1s at Leopardstown.
“He deserves to be there, I simply do not suppose he has the standard to win a Galopin Des Champs in type.”
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Galopin Des Champs is educated by Willie Mullins, a person who used to coach horses for O’Leary, then he did not, however now he does once more.
So what is the story? “It was like a divorce,” O’Leary mentioned. “Willie raised the coaching charges and we could not agree on them, so we took the horses.
“It is mistaken for anybody to take horses from Willie, however loads of these horses went to superb houses.
“That mentioned, Willie has an ideal purchase and practice operation. He is not the a number of champion in Eire for no good purpose.”
O’Leary gained the Gold Cup in 2006 and 2016, however is now on the decline.
He mentioned: “I used to purchase north of fifty or 60 horses a yr and now I purchase 5 to 10.
“I simply haven’t got time for that with 4 teenage kids. I will have two or three runners at Cheltenham sooner or later as a substitute of 20 or 30.
“There are various things in my life now. My time must be dedicated to my kids now. After they develop up and fly, issues could also be totally different.”
Nevertheless, O’Leary remains to be loopy about racing and would like to see Conflated fly in.
Not everybody receives it. I settle for.
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