Fears that horses travelling to Britain from Ireland and France to compete at major racing festivals would be subject to refundable VAT, charged at 19% of their value, have receded after Willie Mullins’s mare Grangee entered the UK on Friday without any charge being levied.
A report on Friday morning suggested that significant tax charges, which could have taken several months to reclaim, would be payable on all horses entering the country after 1 January, as a result of Britain’s exit from the EU’s single market and customs union.
However, Mullins was “pleasantly surprised” to find that this was not the case. “It’s a huge relief,” Ireland’s champion trainer said on Friday evening, “whether that’s for trainers travelling from Ireland to England or English trainers going the other way.
“We’ve been hearing all sorts of stories and no one would tell us what was happening, so I said, “let’s load up a horse and go and see”, and we were pleasantly surprised. We are travelling on a temporary travel document because we are only going in for a race and out again, and with that, there are no VAT implications.
“There’s a bit more red tape on both sides, but once you have a good shipping agent that’s easy enough. It’s probably going to cost a little more but that’s bearable. It will be different if a horse is moving permanently, but that’s no different than it always was.”
Mullins has sent a team of more than 50 horses to the Festival in five of the past six seasons and remains “hopeful” that his party will be close to that level this year. “I don’t honestly know but I’m hopeful,” he said. “As far as I’m concerned, everything is still possible for Cheltenham.”
Grangee is top-priced at 33-1 for the Champion Bumper in March while her main market rival for Saturday’s bumper at Market Rasen, Pam Sly’s Eileendover, is a 25-1 shot for the Festival. GW
Saturday TV preview and best bets, by Chris Cook
It would be nice to see a slightly more professional display from Storm Control (3.00), who flirted with disaster on the run-in at Cheltenham last month, ending up with only a narrow victory. He ran on again when the placed horses reached him, leaving the impression there was more to come.
Warwick’s Classic Chase gives him the chance to prove it and Kerry Lee’s runner can prove up to the task in ITV4’s feature contest. But jockey Richard Patrick will have to judge the pace well on this step up in trip, or the strong-staying Le Breuil could go past in the closing stages, having had a wind operation since last seen.
1.50 Warwick Having to give weight to two useful rivals means this is a potential trap for Next Destination, but there was a lot of encouragement to be taken from his chasing debut and this softer ground should be no problem.
2.05 Market Rasen Edwardstone did well enough in the Greatwood to make him a live runner here and an abortive effort over fences can be ignored. But a small field on testing ground is risky for a hold-up type who can be keen, so Oscars Leader is preferred in the hope that he can get his own way in front.
2.25 Warwick A posse of promising types face the starter but with the David Pipe yard faring so well, it might be worth showing faith in Make Me A Believer. He showed battling qualities to score at Cheltenham and the extra half-mile seems sure to help, while his October second to Bear Ghylls looks better than it did at the time.
2.40 Market Rasen Another chance for On The Blind Side, who ran above market expectations when beaten only by McFabulous last weekend. The return to hurdling looks an inspired decision and this is an excellent opportunity. The ground might not be ideal for Lil Rockerfeller, while Vision Des Flos has been disappointing.
3.15 Market Rasen Two wide-margin wins have naturally resulted in Eileendover being made favourite but this race involves a step up in class and distanceon the worst ground yet encountered by the four-year-old, so it would be no great surprise if one of her older rivals outstayed her. Merry Mistress could be the one, on the back of a taking win at Hereford.
Tips by Chris Cook
11.45 Ruby Red Empress 12.15 Keane's Kingdom 12.50 Skulk 1.25 Lord Rapscallion 2.00 Dutugamunu 2.35 Pholas 3.10 Kondratiev Wave (nb) 3.45 Bombastic
12.20 Mac Tottie 12.55 Martello Sky 1.30 Rockhamton 2.05 Oscars Leader 2.40 On The Blind Side 3.15 Merry Mistress 3.50 Hugo's Reflection
12.40 Memphis Bleek 1.15 Sky Pirate 1.50 Next Destination 2.25 Make Me A Believer 3.00 Storm Control (nap) 3.35 Come On Teddy 4.05 Barnard Castle
4.15 Global Acclaim 4.45 Quintessa 5.15 Good Soul 5.50 Rochford 6.20 Uncle Dick 6.50 Uzincso 7.20 I'm Available 7.50 Only The Brave 8.20 Perfect Sunset
3.35 Warwick His seasonal reappearance, which he needed, remains the only defeat for Come On Teddy since he moved into handicaps and stepped up in trip. A 7lb rise is by no means harsh for his win over On The Blind Side at Cheltenham last month and he is the right favourite here, though cases can be made for others, notably Mr Harp. CC