Horseracing: Irish trainers set for festival pull out

A meeting of the Irish Racehorse Trainers Association is expected to rubber stamp a decision to pull Irish horses out of the Cheltenham Festival.

A meeting of the Irish Racehorse Trainers Association is expected to rubber stamp a decision to pull Irish horses out of the Cheltenham Festival.

Up to 50 horses were expected to travel across the Irish Sea and would be expected to be cheered on by over 10,000 Irish racegoers.

However, association chairman Willie Mullins admitted the chances of seeing Irish-trained horses at Prestbury Park are slim.

"I will be talking to a lot of other trainers this morning before our meeting," said Mullins, trainer of leading Tote Cheltenham Gold Cup hope Florida Pearl.

"The general feeling is that people don't wish to travel to Cheltenham and if that's the consensus at our meeting we won't be going.

"Initially we were going to wait until next week before making a decision but the way things are that decision may be made for us."

Mullins is pessimistic about the chances of racing in Ireland making an early resumption.

"We are looking at a ban on racing until Easter at least over here and possibly even longer if foot-and-mouth is over here."

Frances Crowley, trainer of Sackville, admitted her disappointment that she would be unable to run her star chaser in the Royal and SunAlliance Chase at the Festival.

"I'm gutted really," she said.

"I still don't think we have seen the best of Sackville. I think three miles, one furlong at Cheltenham would have suited him down to the ground."

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Join us for a special evening of Cheltenham chat on Friday March 12 at 6.30pm with racing legend and Irish Examiner columnist Ruby Walsh, Irish Examiner racing correspondent Tommy Lyons, and former champion jockey and tv presenter Mick Fitzgerald, author of Better than Sex.

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