Remarkable triumph for deserving Mouse Morris
Tipperary trainer completes a famous double after his recent Irish national win
David Mullins celebrates after winning the Crabbie’s Grand National steeplechase on Rule The World at Aintree. Photograph: Michael Steele/Getty
It was ironic that the world’s toughest steeplechase was won on Saturday by a horse with a history of physical fragility that had never won over fences before. And it was novel how Rule The World was ridden to Aintree glory by 19-year-old David Mullins who was riding over the famous fences for the first time.
What’s perennial though is the Grand National’s capacity for drama.
Widespread fears the famous old race would be diluted by the latest fence modifications three years ago, or that its lottery element would be removed by a consequent increase in the quality of runner, were again banished by Rule The World’s emotional 33/1 success.
Just a dozen days after Mouse Morris was overcome by Rogue Angel’s Irish Grand National success, and a heartwarming evocation of his son, “Tiffer”, who died in a tragic carbon-monoxide poisoning accident last summer, the Co Tipperary-based trainer was again the centre of attention after securing a rare double.
O’Leary’s big-race haul this Spring also includes Don Cossack’s Cheltenham Gold Cup success but the Ryanair boss recognised the significance of this result in particular for the trainer who gave him a first Gold Cup with War Of Attrition a decade ago.
“You could not win it with a nicer person or someone more deserving than Mouse,” O’Leary said. “Nothing can replace the loss of a son, but to win the Irish Grand National and now the Grand National shows that life goes on.”
Rule The World was paraded in Mullingar yesterday, the first Irish-trained Aintree National winner in nine years, and assured of the status that comes with joining an exclusive roll-of-honour so unique that even his famously unsentimental owner acknowledged it by suggesting immediate retirement for the nine year old.
For a horse with two serious pelvic injuries under his belt, and 13 defeats over fences prior to Saturday, it would be an understandable move. But for a race which once a year brings National Hunt racing to the wider public, Saturday’s events will have only added further to Aintree’s allure.
On testing ground that was heavy in parts, 16 of the 39 starters finished, and all returned unscathed, a significant result considering the four equine deaths in races over the big fences during the previous two days.
Rule The World beat one of the 8-1 favourites, The Last Samuri, by six lengths with the 100-1 Irish veteran Vics Canvass in third after his jockey Robbie Dunne performed a miraculous recovery following the horse’s bad mistake at Bechers first time round.
It was a remarkable outcome for Irish-trained horses overall with The Last Samuri the sole home finisher among the first six. For Rule The World’s connections, and David Mullins in particular, it was career-defining stuff.
Still a conditional jockey, the nephew of champion trainer Willie Mullins had ridden only 17 winners over fences prior to Saturday. However apart from a mistake at the fourth last, Rule The World and Mullins enjoyed a flawless race.
“David could have bottled it at the last and gone too soon, but he waited until the bend. He’s probably an old brain on young shoulders,” said Morris.
Mullins’ previous claim to fame had been as the author of Faugheen’s sole career defeat on board Nichols Canyon in last November’s Morgiana Hurdle but Bryan Cooper’s misfortune in picking wrong altered that.
As if to prove his luck was in with a vengeance, the rider later won the final race of the Aintree festival on his uncle’s runner, Ivan Grozny, a win that took Willie Mullins clear of Paul Nicholls in the race to the British trainers championship.
“He gets horses jumping, he keeps them so well balanced,” said Mullins of his nephew.
“Horses really relax with him, jumping. Because that horse, Ivan Grozny, he takes an awful hold and I was amazed the way he settled him in midfield and just came through, very relaxed.”