The Cheltenham Festival Hunter Chase favourite Billaway will have a new rider come raceday on Friday March 19th, after his regular rider Patrick Mullins confirmed that he has elected not to turn professional.
English government restrictions on grassroots spot will prevent any amateur riders from competing at the upcoming Cheltenham Festival and since confirmation of that came in recent weeks, almost all of the speculation in the area has focussed on whether the 31-year-old would elect to switch from amateur to professional.
Mullins has been aboard the nine-year-old in each of his last eight starts including when the pair chased home It Came To Pass in last year’s renewal, however consecutive victories in recent months at both Down Royal and Naas have seen Billaway shoot to the top of the ante-post market.
Mullins would also have been set to ride a number of leading horses for his father at Prestbury Park such as Champion Bumper favourite Kilcruit and Melon had he elected to take out a professional licence, however he has elected not to do so owing to the conditions tied to such a move.
"I did my interview for a professional licence on Wednesday and they got back to me today and said if I was to take out a professional licence that I would have to hold it for a year before I could revert to amateur which I'm not going to do," Mullins revealed to Independent.ie.
"I'd have to hold a professional licence for one year and that's not what I wanted to. What I wanted to do was ride as a professional until the end of the season and take six months off, which used to be the old rule, in order to come back and be an amateur but they didn't bite."
Being the only Willie Mullins entry in the St. James’s Place Festival Hunter Chase, it is expected that Billaway will now be the ride of Paul Townend.