On February 5, 2024, it was reported that Monbeg Genius, a racehorse owned by the controversial UK couple Baroness Michelle Mone and Doug Barrowman, may be withdrawn from the Grand National steeplechase, despite being one of the favorites. Bookmakers have priced Monbeg Genius at 20/1 to win, making it the third favorite for the prestigious race.
However, Mone and Barrowman are currently under investigation by the National Crime Agency for their alleged involvement with PPE Medpro, a company that won government contracts worth £202 million during the Covid-19 pandemic. The couple is at the center of a media storm due to the scandal.
Baroness Michelle Mone, a former model who founded the lingerie company Ultimo, was made a “life peer” in 2015, allowing her to sit in the House of Lords. PPE Medpro was contracted to supply facemasks and surgical gowns without competitive tenders under Covid-19 emergency rules.
In January 2022, it was revealed that Mone used her government position to “aggressively” recommend Medpro for the contract just five days before the company had been incorporated. The supplied equipment fell below the required standard, and the UK government has initiated proceedings to recoup £122 million from the company.
Despite their denials of involvement with PPE Medpro, reports have surfaced indicating that an offshore trust received £29 million from the company via a series of transactions involving Barrowman.
The British Horseracing Authority is investigating whether Monbeg Genius is one of the couple’s frozen assets. Mone bought the eight-year-old gelding as a wedding present for her husband in November 2020.
The BHA issued a statement saying they are in contact with the relevant individuals to understand what implications there are for their involvement with racing.
If Monbeg Genius is allowed to run, it would be bad optics for the BHA, given the controversy surrounding the couple. The Grand National is a national institution and a significant event for both the public and bookmakers.
The race has a prize of £500,000 for the winning horse’s owner. If Monbeg Genius were to win at 20/1, it may be the most unpopular winner in the race’s 185-year history. Overall, the horse’s participation in the race is now uncertain due to the ongoing scandal involving its owners.