Mullins hits back after late non-runner fine

Willie Mullins - Cheltenham - 12/3/2012

Willie Mullins: fined £1,000 for late withdrawal of Vroum Vroum Mag

  PICTURE: Patrick McCann (racingpost.com/photos)  

WILLIE MULLINS was handed a £1,000 fine by the stewards at Sandown for showing “a wilful disregard for the interests of racegoers and punters” over the late withdrawal of Vroum Vroum Mag.

However the trainer hit back, describing the decision as “very harsh” and defending his motive for the withdrawal.

The mare had been due to contest the Listed bet365 Select Hurdle, for which she was the odds-on favourite, but she was scratched nine minutes before the off time of 4.45.

Paul Nicholls had retained his trainers’ title by saddling the second and fourth in the preceding bet365 Gold Cup and Mullins stated that he had withdrawn Vroum Vroum Mag as it was no longer mathematically possible to win the title and that he wanted to run her next week at Punchestown in a more valuable race.

The stewards ruled that Mullins had, by making the late withdrawal, contravened the law that states a horse that is declared for a race must run.

Mullins: my motives were genuine

Following the ban, Mullins hit back at the stewards accusation he had shown ‘wilful disregard’ for punters.

“I disagree totally [with that term],” he said. “My motives for withdrawing her were genuine, we brought a big team of horses over that I didn’t have to, and I don’t think the stewards took that into account – or enough account.

“There was no wilful disregard, we thought a lot before the withdrawal, we thought about the betting public but because she’d been declared we thought they would all get their money back, and from that point of view I think the stewards’ comment is very harsh.”

In fact, ante-post bets are losers if the horse is withdrawn at any point. Paddy Power announced they would refund all bets on the mare.

‘I’m sorry for punters’

Speaking before the fine was issued, Mullins said: “She has a couple of options at Punchestown and she was only here for the championship. Mr Ricci [owner] kindly let me bring her over here for that to run in a race of much less value.

“I’m just sorry for people who came to see Vroum Vroum Mag. I’m sorry for punters but I imagine they will get their money back because she was declared.”

Thistlecrack’s absence from the Ladbrokes Champion Stayers Hurdle at Punchestown has given connections another option next week.

Mullins added: “Once the championship was over I think we had to take a different view, plus we learned this morning that Thistlecrack isn’t running, which opens up that race.

“I hadn’t even thought about it until we came down off the stand and did the figures. We then said we had better regroup.”

Nicholls and Mullins also withdrew runners for the final race on the card. Mullins, who went on to win the British jumps season’s final race with McKinley, scratched Burgas, while Nicholls took out Alcala and Chartbreaker.

All three withdrawals were blamed on the change of going and no penalties were handed out.

Walsh back for Punchestown

There was some good news for Mullins on Saturday, with stable jockey Ruby Walsh set to return to action next week at Punchestown.

Walsh received the all-clear to return having been out of action since suffering a wrist fracture at the Aintree Grand National meeting.

He said: “The injury has healed really well. The wrist feels good and I can’t wait to get back into action.”

 

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