JP McManus tees up Grand National hopes with Grade One Aintree hat-trick

Willie Mullins lands two more top-flight prizes to help chances of success in British trainer’s title race

The JP McManus team goes into the Aintree Grand National in red-hot form following a Grade One hat-trick at Aintree on Friday.

McManus watched Mystical Power live up to his illustrious pedigree by landing the big two-mile hurdle prize for Willie Mullins while Inothewayurthinkin followed his Cheltenham success in the Kim Muir with a top-flight success for Gavin Cromwell in the Mildmay Chase.

Nicky Henderson’s Jonbon made light of a first step up to 2½ miles in the feature Melling Chase to win at the Aintree festival for a third year in a row in the famous green and gold silks.

If Mystical Power, a son of Galileo and the 2016 Champion Hurdle winner Annie Power, indicated the value of breeding, then McManus will hope the same can apply to Limerick Lace in the National.


Inothewayurthinkin is her younger brother and got quotes of as low as 10-1 for next year’s Cheltenham Gold after overcoming jumping errors to ultimately beat another McManus runner, Iroko, in some style.

Limerick Lace is one of five National hopefuls for McManus and her price has tumbled on the back of her owner revealing he has backed her 25-1.

For someone who once famously speculated on how many fish might still be alive if they’d learned to keep their mouths shut, it was a rare piece of indiscretion pounced upon by many.

Limerick Lace is already a Cheltenham Festival winner also trained by Cromwell who will hope jockey Mark Walsh has picked correctly from McManus’s National pack.

“She’s good, I’m happy with her, and she’s come out of Cheltenham well,” said Cromwell. “There’s a lot more stamina involved tomorrow, but it’s encouraging her full brother has just won and she jumps well, so fingers crossed.”

A sad outcome of the race was that Giovenco sustained fatal injuries in a fall at the final fence.

McManus has five chances in the National and said: “I’ve had a little on Limerick Lace at 25-1 each way because I thought that was a big price. But if my life depended on it I think I Am Maximus is the one. Willie [Mullins] said we’re going to try to win the Grand National and then the Gold Cup!”

Mark Walsh’s decision to commit earlier than ideal paid off on Mystical Power who showed blue-blooded grit to hold off Gordon Elliott’s Firefox by half a length.

“I’m delighted to win a Grade One with him. Rich [Ricci] has a share in him because he owned the mare, obviously, so it means a lot. For the mare herself to have a Grade One winner is special,” Mullins said.

If the champion trainer’s James Du Berlias looked all over a Topham winner only for Arizona Cardinal to rally past in the final strides, his strength in depth was underlined by Dancing City’s Sefton Hurdle victory.

Paul Townend’s original mount Readin Tommy Wrong was a non-runner so he switched to Dancing City who landed his second Grade One of the season.

“It’s taken a long time for him to show me he’s the horse we thought he was when we bought him. A few times we thought we should maybe ship him on, but he’s come right now and he’s going to make an exciting novice chaser.

“My father always used to say to me ‘patience’, which obviously at the time I didn’t really understand but some horses just need time to come to themselves,” said Mullins whose top-flight double meant his odds on landing the British trainers title reduced once again.

“It was a great ride from Paul [Townend] because the game looked up crossing the bottom for about five or six strides and Paul even thought the game was up himself when he was off the bridle. But he just sat and sat and nursed him until they got over the last because it took some getting,” he added.

In other news, the impact of the recent wet weather period meant next Saturday’s flat fixture at Limerick has been cancelled eight days in advance. A National Hunt fixture is scheduled for the course next Friday and officials are keeping fingers crossed the weather fates are kind to them.

More concrete measures were announced by Horse Racing Ireland with a Curragh meeting arranged for next Saturday (April 20th) to replace a fixture lost last weekend. It will mean a weekend programme at HQ as a card was already in place for next Sunday.

A card will be run at Navan on May 7th to replace a meeting lost to waterlogging on Tuesday.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor is the racing correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Tipping Point column