PATRICK Mullins is among the most high profile jockeys affected after it was confirmed today that amateur jockeys will not be able to ride at this year’s Cheltenham Festival.
A ruling was made in January banning all amateur jockeys from competing in the UK but it had been hoped that this would be lifted in time for the Festival. However, in Boris Johnson’s road map for exiting lockdown, released earlier this week, a return of grassroots sport is only permitted from 29 March.
It means that the likes of Mullins, Jamie Codd and Derek O’Connor, all multiple winners at previous Festivals, now have to sit this Festival out as things stand.
As well as perhaps competing in one of the three races confined to amateurs, the National Hunt Chase, Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Amateur Jockeys’ Handicap Chase and the St James’s Place Festival Challenge Cup Open Hunters’ Chase, Mullins would perhaps have been lined up for some big rides.
He won Grades 1s on both Min and Sharjah in December, at Punchestown and Leopardstown respectively, and would have been eyeing up the chance to ride both at the Festival. Min is among the favourites for the Ryanair Chase while Sharjah is expected to run in the Champion Hurdle.
He also rode Champion Bumper favourite Kilcruit to a spectacular victory at the recent Dublin Racing Festival and is a regular partner of Melon, currently in the reckoning for the Champion Chase.
There is still the option for Mullins to turn pro in time for the Festival and that might be something worth considering for him given the nature of the rides that might be available.