Horseracing: Irish horses unlikely to run at Aintree

Irish-trained horses remain doubtful for this week's Martell Grand National meeting at Aintree.

The Government banned racing in February due to the foot-and-mouth disease and also asked trainers not to send their horse to England.

And only two weeks ago the agriculture minister, Joe Walsh, confirmed the stance.

Willie Mullins, chairman of the Racehorse Trainers' Association, said nothing has changed since.

"We were told a fortnight ago by the Ministry of Agriculture not to go and we haven't had any indication that anything has changed," confirmed Mullins.

However, bookmakers Ladbrokes have reintroduced last year's winner Papillon, who is trained in Ireland by Ted Walsh, into their betting at 8-1.

And recent newspaper reports suggest hopes are rising that Irish horses will be allowed to travel to Aintree.

But Mullins dismissed the reports as pure speculation.

"It's bookmaker hype, Aintree hype and media hype," added Mullins.

There has been no racing in Ireland since Naas on February 25 but the sport is expected to resume at Cork and Leopardstown on Easter Saturday.

"Our domestic programme is due to restart on April 14 and it has been hinted that if any horses travel to England in view of the extent of the foot-and-mouth disease then it could jeopardise our own racing. That is our members' main worry," said Mullins.

"I would very much like to go to Aintree myself but we must not jeopardise our domestic programme.

"I'm hoping to contact the ministry today to see what the latest situation is but as far as I know there hasn't been a change of heart."

There are 11 Irish-trained runners still in the Grand National and Aintree's press officer Dickon White said: "We have been in regular contact with all the trainers who have runners in the National but I don't know whether there will be any Irish runners on Saturday. It's not our decision."

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