Freewheelin Dylan rocks home at 150-1 to take Irish Grand National

Jockey Ricky Doyle wins big race at Fairyhouse for local trainer Dermot McLoughlin

Freewheelin Dylan supplied a historic Boylesports Irish Grand National shock with a 150-1 victory in the Easter Monday feature at Fairyhouse.

The Dermot McLoughlin-trained horse made most of the running under jockey Ricky Doyle to land Irish jump racing's most valuable race.

A unique ‘National’ taking place behind closed doors managed to deliver a singular result with the biggest priced winner in the race’s long history.

However even the 150-1 ‘SP’ wouldn’t have prevented a raucous reception for the winners had there been crowds present for such a local victory.


McLoughlin, who also saddled Opposites Attract in the race, trains less than eight kilometres from Fairyhouse and his family is steeped in Irish National history.

McLoughlin's father, Liam, was the first jockey to win on steeplechasing's greatest ever star, Arkle, and rode the 1962 Irish National winner Keforo for Tom Dreaper.

His son spent his early years working for Jim Dreaper before starting to train himself in 2010.

Since then he saddled just over 100 winners under both codes in Ireland and came close to a memorable success when the 100-1 veteran Vics Canvass was third to Rule The World in the 2016 Aintree Grand National.

However, even those odds paled next to Freewheelin Dylan who was very much the stable second-string behind the 18-1 Opposites Attract. He finished 10th.

Doyle, 26, works principally for Conor O’Dwyer on the Curragh and pulled off a spectacular result even his employer never managed during a renowned riding career.

Freewheelin Dylan lived up to his name in his first start in almost six months and refused to relinquish the lead almost from the outset.

Jack Kennedy on the 9-1 shot Run Wild Fred threw down a determined challenge which ultimately came up a length and a quarter short while Enjoy D'allen at 40-1 was third. Latest Exhibition, the 9-2 favourite, faded to fourth in the closing stages.

McLoughlin appeared the least surprised person at such an unlikely outcome.

“I’m not shocked. It’s a race I like to have runners in and there’s a good story as Sheila [Mangan] who owns him works for me in the yard,” said McLoughlin, who for good measure had also won the first race at Cork on Monday.

“There is always a story to the Irish National and at least I’m part of it this year.

“Dad won the race in 1962 so we’ve been coming here every year since I was a young land and it’s a local race for us. It’s nice to have a runner – let alone the winner!”

“He stays and gallops and loves to be in front with his jumping. Off his mark we planned for one of these big staying chases and the ground came right for him. He relished that ground.

Doyle described it as “by far” the best day of his life on what was his first ride in the Irish National.

“I couldn’t wait for the race to come. I was just looking forward to having a spin in it.

“Dermot McLoughlin – what a man! I’m after winning two Nationals for him on this horse [they also won the Midlands National at Kilbeggan].

“I bounced out just to be handy, got an easy lead and the horse has loved it. He jumps so much for fun. I was able to take breathers everywhere.

“Turning in I could feel horses on me and I could feel him picking up. I was trying to do the maths in my head and was thinking ‘did I jump the last the first time?’ I was in a dream the whole way,” he said.

It was the ultimate Irish National outcome for bookmakers with Freewheelin Dylan’s odds putting even Liberty Counsel’s 50-1 ‘SP’ in 2013 in the shade.

Run Wild Fred briefly threatened to overhaul the winner but bookmakers never had to worry about Rachael Blackmore’s well-backed mount Robin De Carlow, who was pulled up injured with a circuit still to go. Trainer Willie Mullins later said said the horse was suspected to have suffered pulled ligaments in her back or pelvis.

Understandably even the circumstances of a behind-closed-doors National didn’t prevent winning connections from relishing the moment.

“I was fairly relaxed about it until they turned in – then I got a bit excited,” McLoughlin said.

“I was enjoying it up until then as it’s nice to see a horse jumping fences like that and enjoying himself.

“Coming here I thought we had a good chance with both horses and thankfully it worked out with one of them.”