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Willie Mullins admits Cheltenham expectations leave ‘a certain dread in your stomach’

There’s only 20 days to the start of the Cheltenham festival so first things first – Willie Mullins thinks Allaho is his best bet for jump racing’s biggest week of the year.

Since Allaho is a 4-5 favourite to repeat last year’s success in the Ryanair Chase its cautious advice unlikely to make any punter rich.

However, since Mullins is the most successful figure in festival history with 78 winners – and is himself odds-on to be top trainer for a ninth time – he knows his every word gets pounced on at this time of year.

When quizzed by media at his Co Carlow base on Wednesday morning he had barely mentioned favouring the Turners Chase rather than the Brown Advisory for Galopin Des Champs than the star novice’s price collapsed in the shorter race.

It sets up the prospect of a mouth-watering cIash with another Irish star in Bob Olinger, although 27 years of Cheltenham success has taught Mullins the value of wriggle room.

That means definitive festival plans are unlikely to be finalised until the first 48-hour declaration stage the Sunday before.

That will be when the brains trust of Mullins, his son Patrick, champion jockey Paul Townend, assistant trainer David Casey, and someone called Ruby Walsh, sit down and divvy up a colossal 60-horse squad.

“Mental,” is how the perennial champion trainer describes how that decisive date used to be in the office. It’s a quicker process now but still him with the ultimate call.

“It’s probably a gut feeling. Sometimes you don’t make the right decision but you go with your gut feeling or whoever puts up the biggest argument.

“Sometimes [though] I’ll have my mind made up, I listen to the others, and we go my way!” he says.

Allaho on the gallops during the media visit to Willie Mullins’s yard at Closutton, Bagenalstown on Wednesday. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Allaho on the gallops during the media visit to Willie Mullins’s yard at Closutton, Bagenalstown on Wednesday. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

It means the racing world must hang on longer for where other exciting novice talents such as Sir Gerhard and Dysart Dynamo end up.

There are other dilemmas, too, such as whether the former dual-Gold Cup hero Al Boum Photo will emerge in time from an apparent mood slump to try and regain the ‘Blue Riband’ crown, or if Chacun Pour Soi is too much of a home bird to carry his outstanding domestic form across the Irish Sea.

So perhaps it’s little wonder that while everyone else is counting down the days the central figure is more ambivalent.

“[I] probably dread it because of the expectation from everyone that we’re going to have half a dozen winners,” he admitted.

It seems not even 78 winners – including eight in a single week in 2015 – can insulate someone against a fear of it all going wrong.

“Some year it will happen – we’ll have a blowout. And that’s always on the back of your mind,” Mullins said.

“Everyone’s expectation is going to be your failure if you don’t come up with it. That leaves a certain dread in your stomach. A week or two before the festival can be tough in that respect.

“But I’m lucky enough with the owners and the horses I have to be in that position. You just have to take what comes with it; people always stopping you and people always ringing you, that’s the price you pay.

“And thankfully people are because there’s lots of guys no one wants to ring. I know I’m very lucky so that’s the way I feel going into it. On one hand you’re dreading it – on the other I’m lucky,” he added.

Cheltenham’s central role in the sport means it’s not just the racing world focusing on the four days in the Cotswolds.

Willie Mullins watches his horses parade during a media visit to his yard at Closutton, Bagenalstown. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Willie Mullins watches his horses parade during a media visit to his yard at Closutton, Bagenalstown. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

After the reputational disaster of 2020, and last year’s eerie behind closed doors action, the prospect of an ‘old normal’ festival with heaving crowds felt as bright as Wednesday morning’s sunshine following a week of torrential rain and wind.

“It comes from over there, from Jim Bolger country,” Mullins joked, pointing to nearby hills where his outspoken former mentor is based. “Comes down here and lands on us – like a lot of stuff from there!”

Squabbles might be as common as rain in Irish racing but what’s novel is the scale of the raider’s dominance at Cheltenham.

A record 23 of the 28 festival races last year were won by Irish-based horses, leaving a mortified home team to indulge in introspective examination of their failure.

It didn’t feel like only modesty that led the most successful figure of all to disagree with Gold Cup-winning trainer Henrietta Knight’s recent comments about part of the Irish success being due to better trainers here.

“Our racing structure, with better prizemoney, is attracting better and bigger owners, who in turn can buy horses and we have the investment in Irish racing to buy the types of horses that are needed.

“I don’t think it’s about the trainers. I think it’s the stock we have.

“I remember my father was champion trainer and if he had two Grade One horses in his yard at the one time that was a good number. Because any time a horse popped its head up at that time it was bought and on the ferry.

“So the money and investment went into English racing. Now it’s the other way around. That’s the big thing,” Mullins said.

He was also keen to point out how not everyone gets right all of the time.

“I’ve turned down some good horses too. I turned down Denman because he was hobdayed [operation to improve a horse’s breathing].

“I rang Tom Mahoney [scout] the following year when he won his novice half the track and I said ‘why didn’t you ring me?’ and he says ‘I did, and I told you he was hobdayed, and you told me to f**k off!” Mullins laughed.

Appreciate It leads the parade during the visit to Willie Mullins’s yard. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Appreciate It leads the parade during the visit to Willie Mullins’s yard. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Mullins on his key Cheltenham hopes

Al Boum Photo (Gold Cup)
“I’d rather I had him in better order to be honest. I brought him away to work and I wasn’t happy with him.

“He’s fit and we should have plenty of time. I think he’s in better order this morning than he was the last few days.

“Maybe it just wasn’t his day when I brought him away. He usually comes right for Cheltenham.

“I wish he was in better form but we still have time. It’s just a matter of hoping he comes into form.”

Appreciate It (Champion Hurdle)
“I had him away for a gallop last week and I was very, very happy with him.

“I’d say we have a good record with horses running first time out at Cheltenham. I don’t know we’ve done it in a Champion Hurdle but we did it with Quevega and Joe Cullen won first time up.

“It’s not something I’m worried about. I made the decision ages ago and the closer we’ve got the happier I am that we didn’t have a run.”

Galopin Des Champs (Turners or Brown Advisory)
“Galopin did it very well at Leopardstown and I can’t see him going up to three miles. It’s not a decision yet but at the moment I’d be favouring going for the shorter race.

“I think he has the ability to do that. He jumps well, he’s sharp and I don’t think he needs to go three miles.

“Bob Olinger is obviously a worry but I’d be thinking our man would be better off in the shorter race.”

Sir Gerhard (Supreme or Ballymore)
“I’ve no doubt that whatever race he runs in, getting a lead, he’ll be fine. He has plenty of speed and jumps well. I’m looking forward to getting him over there and he could go in either race.

“You could toss a coin to decide which race he goes to. That’s the sort of ability I think he has.”

Facile Vega (Bumper)
“I got him ready last year to run and he did a bit of work here one day that said to me ‘wow’ this fella could be special. He got jarred so I left him alone. What he did from the furlong marker the last day [Dublin Racing Festival] was exceptional.”

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Holiday let clampdown welcomed: But concerns raised over how rules will be enforced

A clampdown on new holiday lets has been welcomed as a way to stop local people from being locked out of buying a property in their community.

The Government said the new measures being introduced in the summer will ensure they can afford to live in the place they call home.

In popular tourist areas, residents say high numbers of short-term lets listed on websites such as Airbnb are preventing them from being able to move on to, or up, the property ladder.

New clampdown on holiday lets is aimed at preventing people being locked out of the housing market

New clampdown on holiday lets is aimed at preventing people being locked out of the housing market

A mandatory national registration scheme will be introduced to help councils understand the extent of short-term lets in their area and the effects on their communities.

A new planning ‘use class’ will also be created for short-term lets, meaning council officials would be able to refuse permission for a home to be converted into a holiday let. Existing properties won’t need to apply for permission, however. 

The rules will not apply to people renting out their main home for less than 90 nights a year, while hotels, hostels and B&Bs are also unaffected by the changes. 

Perhaps surprisingly, holiday let platforms such as Airbnb And Sykes Holiday Cottages said they welcomed the changes. 

Amanda Cupples, of Airbnb, said: ‘The introduction of a short-term lets register is good news for everyone.

‘Families who host on Airbnb will benefit from clear rules that support their activity, and local authorities will get access to the information they need to assess and manage housing impacts and keep communities healthy, where necessary.’

And Ben Edgar Spier, of Sykes Holiday Cottages, said: ‘The announcement of the registration scheme for England’s short-term letting industry has the intention to track the size and impact of the sector and ensure short-term lets are safe, something which Sykes fully supports.

‘Short-term lets are the economic lifeblood of many parts of the UK and a register to provide accurate data was clearly needed before any further regulation risks unforeseen impacts on communities and visitors alike.

Short-term lets are the economic lifeblood of many parts of the UK 

‘We welcome the registration scheme being national, mandatory, and presumably online. Our hope and expectation is that it will give our market some much needed clarity and drive compliance across the country.’

However, he also called on the Government to create more housing through repurposing vacant buildings. 

‘On the target to deliver one million homes this Parliament, we note that there are far more underused and vacant buildings in existence as well as land with planning permission, all of which contribute far less if anything to local economies, compared with holiday lets,’ Spier said. 

‘We would urge the Government to consider measures to incentivise the bringing of those buildings and land into use to boost housing supply.’

While experts welcomed the changes, announced by Housing Secretary Michael Gove, one estate agent questioned whether they could be enforced

While experts welcomed the changes, announced by Housing Secretary Michael Gove, one estate agent questioned whether they could be enforced

How will the new rules be enforced? 

North London estate agent Jeremy Leaf, insisted that any new rules would need to be properly enforced to ensure they worked long term.

He said: ‘The aim of the policy to give local people, however you may define them, improved choice of homes to buy and to rent.

‘However, one size does not fit all and local authorities should be given the discretion to apply the rules depending on issues in their area. For instance, if there is high volume of holiday lets then that may need to be balanced out to make sure there is sufficient range of other properties available to buy and to rent. 

‘On the other hand, a policy which is too prescriptive may be damaging in an area with relatively low quantity of holiday lets.

‘The key point is whether this is just politicking, and how, and when it is going to be introduced. From what we can see, there is very little enforcement of existing rules so one wonders what the point is of stricter regulations if existing rules are not enforced.’

Holiday let prices in popular areas 

Cornwall and Pembrokeshire are popular areas among second home owners and those looking for a holiday let investment.

We take a look at a property to rent in each of those areas that are listed to rent on Sykes Cottages.

The Pottery

The Pottery is a three-bedroom holiday let in Pembrokeshire’s Newport that is available to rent for £1,470 for seven nights in July.

The Pottery is a three-bedroom holiday let in Pembrokeshire's Newport that is listed on Sykes Cottages

The Pottery is a three-bedroom holiday let in Pembrokeshire’s Newport that is listed on Sykes Cottages

The holiday let has an attractive interior and is available to rent for £1,470 for seven nights in July

The holiday let has an attractive interior and is available to rent for £1,470 for seven nights in July

Sandy Cove

Sandy Cove is a three-bedroom holiday let in Cornwall’s Praa Sands that is available to rent for £2,392 for seven nights in July. 

Sandy Cove is a three-bedroom holiday let in Cornwall's Praa Sands that is listed on Sykes Cottages

Sandy Cove is a three-bedroom holiday let in Cornwall’s Praa Sands that is listed on Sykes Cottages

You'll need deep pockets to stay at the property, which is available to rent for £2,392 for seven nights in July

You’ll need deep pockets to stay at the property, which is available to rent for £2,392 for seven nights in July

The Government said the changes were part of its long-term plan for housing, which it hoped would ‘unlock more of the homes this country needs’.

Its target is to deliver one million homes this Parliament.

It hopes to introduce the new holiday let rules from this summer.  

Secretary of State for Levelling Up Housing and Communities, Michael Gove said:

‘Short-term lets can play an important role in the UK’s flourishing tourism economy, providing great, easily-accessible accommodation in some of the most beautiful parts of our country.

‘But in some areas, too many local families and young people feel they are being shut out of the housing market and denied the opportunity to rent or buy in their own community.

‘So the Government is taking action as part of its long-term plan for housing. That means delivering more of the right homes in the right places, and giving communities the power to decide.

‘This will allow local communities to take back control and strike the right balance between protecting the visitor economy and ensuring local people get the homes they need.’

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Congratulations, Privacy Just Took A Great Leap Out the Window!

Your Data Is Being Used Without Your Permission And Knowledge

The Voice Of EU | In the heart of technological innovation, the collision between intellectual property rights and the development of cutting-edge AI technologies has sparked a significant legal battle. The New York Times has taken legal action against OpenAI and Microsoft, filing a lawsuit in Manhattan federal court. This legal maneuver aims to address concerns surrounding the unauthorized use of the Times’ content for the training of AI models, alleging copyright infringements that could potentially result in billions of dollars in damages.

READ: HOW YOUR DATA IS BEING USED TO TRAIN A.I.

This legal tussle underlines the escalating tension between technological advancements and the protection of intellectual property. The crux of the lawsuit revolves around OpenAI and Microsoft allegedly utilizing the Times’ proprietary content to advance their own AI technology, directly competing with the publication’s services. The lawsuit suggests that this unauthorized utilization threatens the Times’ ability to offer its distinctive service and impacts its AI innovation, creating a competitive landscape that challenges the publication’s proprietary content.

Amidst the growing digital landscape, media organizations like the Times are confronting a myriad of challenges. The migration of readers to online platforms has significantly impacted traditional media, and the advent of artificial intelligence technology has added another layer of complexity. The legal dispute brings to the forefront the contentious practice of AI companies scraping copyrighted information from online sources, including articles from media organizations, to train their generative AI chatbots. This strategy has attracted substantial investments, rapidly transforming the AI landscape.

Exhibit presented by the New York Times’ legal team of ChatGPT replicating a article after being prompted

The lawsuit highlights instances where OpenAI’s technology, specifically GPT-4, replicated significant portions of Times articles, including in-depth investigative reports. These outputs, alleged by the Times to contain verbatim excerpts from their content, raise concerns about the ethical and legal boundaries of using copyrighted material for AI model training without proper authorization or compensation.

The legal action taken by the Times follows attempts to engage in discussions with Microsoft and OpenAI, aiming to address concerns about the use of its intellectual property. Despite these efforts, negotiations failed to reach a resolution that would ensure fair compensation for the use of the Times’ content while promoting responsible AI development that benefits society.

In the midst of this legal battle, the broader questions surrounding the responsible and ethical utilization of copyrighted material in advancing technological innovations come to the forefront.

The dispute between the Times, OpenAI, and Microsoft serves as a significant case study in navigating the intricate intersection of technological progress and safeguarding intellectual property rights in the digital age.


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Conflicted History: ‘Oppenheimer’ And Its Impact On Los Alamos And New Mexico Downwinders

‘Oppenheimer’ And Its Impact On Los Alamos And New Mexico Downwinders

The Voice Of EU | In the highly anticipated blockbuster movie, “Oppenheimer,” the life of J. Robert Oppenheimer, the man behind the first atomic bomb, is portrayed as a riveting tale of triumph and tragedy.

As the film takes center stage, it also brings to light the often-overlooked impacts on a community living downwind from the top-secret Manhattan Project testing site in southern New Mexico.

A Forgotten Legacy

While the film industry and critics praise “Oppenheimer,” a sense of frustration prevails among the residents of New Mexico’s Tularosa Basin, who continue to grapple with the consequences of the Manhattan Project. Tina Cordova, a cancer survivor and founder of the Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium, expresses their feelings, stating, “They invaded our lives and our lands and then they left,” referring to the scientists and military personnel who conducted secret experiments over 200 miles away from their community.

The Consortium, alongside organizations like the Union of Concerned Scientists, has been striving to raise awareness about the impact of the Manhattan Project on New Mexico’s population. Advocates emphasize the necessity of acknowledging the human cost of the Trinity Test, the first atomic blast, and other nuclear weapons activities that have affected countless lives in the state.

The Ongoing Struggle for Recognition

As film enthusiasts celebrate the drama and brilliance of “Oppenheimer,” New Mexico downwinders feel overlooked by both the U.S. government and movie producers. The federal government’s compensation program for radiation exposure still does not include these affected individuals. The government’s selection of the remote and flat Trinity Test Site, without warning residents in the surrounding areas, further added to the controversy.

Living off the land, the rural population in the Tularosa Basin had no idea that the fine ash settling on their homes and fields was a result of the world’s first atomic explosion.

The government initially attempted to cover up the incident, attributing the bright light and rumble to an explosion at a munitions dump. It was only after the U.S. dropped atomic bombs on Japan weeks later that New Mexico residents realized the magnitude of what they had witnessed.

Tracing the Fallout

According to the Manhattan Project National Historical Park, large amounts of radiation were released into the atmosphere during the Trinity Test, with fallout descending over a vast area. Some of the fallout reached as far as the Atlantic Ocean, but the greatest concentration settled approximately 30 miles from the test site.

Now I Am Become Death, the Destroyer of Worlds.

J. Robert Oppenheimer

The consequences of this catastrophic event have affected generations of New Mexicans, who still await recognition and justice for the harm caused by nuclear weapons.

A Tale of Contrasts: Los Alamos and the Legacy of Oppenheimer

As the film’s spotlight shines on the life of J. Robert Oppenheimer, a contrasting narrative unfolds in Los Alamos, more than 200 miles north of the Tularosa Basin. Los Alamos stands as a symbol of Oppenheimer’s legacy, housing one of the nation’s premier national laboratories and boasting the highest percentage of people with doctorate degrees in the U.S.

Oppenheimer’s influence is evident throughout Los Alamos, with a street bearing his name and an IPA named in his honor at a local brewery. The city embraces its scientific legacy, showcasing his handwritten notes and ID card in a museum exhibit. Los Alamos National Laboratory employees played a significant role in the film, contributing as extras and engaging in enlightening discussions during breaks.

The “Oppenheimer” Movie

Director Christopher Nolan’s perspective on the Trinity Test and its profound impact is evident in his approach to “Oppenheimer.” He has described the event as an extraordinary moment in human history and expressed his desire to immerse the audience in the pivotal moment when the button was pushed. Nolan’s dedication to bringing historical accuracy and emotional depth to the screen is evident as he draws inspiration from Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book, “American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer.

For Nolan, Oppenheimer’s story is a potent blend of dreams and nightmares, capturing the complexity and consequences of the Manhattan Project. As the film reaches global audiences, it also offers a unique opportunity to raise awareness about the downwinders in New Mexico, whose lives were forever altered by the legacy of nuclear weapons testing.

The Oppenheimer Festival and Beyond

Los Alamos is determined to use the Oppenheimer Festival as an opportunity to educate visitors about the true stories behind the film’s events. The county’s “Project Oppenheimer” initiative, launched in early 2023, encompasses forums, documentaries, art installations, and exhibits that delve into the scientific contributions of the laboratory and the social implications of the Manhattan Project.

A special area during the festival will facilitate discussions about the movie, fostering a deeper understanding of the community’s history. The county aims to continue revisiting and discussing the legacy of the Manhattan Project, ensuring that the impact of this pivotal moment in history is never forgotten.

As “Oppenheimer” takes audiences on an emotional journey, it serves as a reminder that every historical event carries with it complex and multifaceted implications. The movie may celebrate the scientific achievements of the past, but it also illuminates the urgent need to recognize and address the human cost that persists to this day.


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