Rogue Angel takes the Grand National for Mouse Morris
Ger Fox rode the Gigginstown House Stud horse to the win at Fairyhouse
Rogue Angel ridden by Ger Fox (left) on the way to winning the Boylesports Irish Grand National Chase ahead of Bless the Wings ridden by Ruby Walsh (centre) during day two of the Easter Festival at Fairyhouse Racecourse. Photo: PA Wire
Ger Fox on Rogue Angel wins the Boylesports Irish Grand National just ahead of Ruby Walsh on Bless the Wings. Photo: Morgan Treacy/Inpho
‘Mouse’ Morris’ stellar career includes the peak of War Of Attrition’s Cheltenham Gold Cup a decade ago but the Co. Tipperary based trainer described Rogue Angel’s epic 16-1 Boylesports Irish Grand National success at Fairyhouse on Easter Monday as “special.”
The emphasis on that single word said everything that needed to be said. Morris dedicated the victory to the memory of his son Christopher, widely known as ‘Tiffer,’ who died, in an accident in Argentina last summer, before briefly being overcome with emotion.
“This was for Tiffer. He’s looking down on us and helped us there,” he said after Rogue Angel and jockey Ger Fox rallied to beat the Ruby Walsh ridden Bless The Wings by a short head with Ballyadam Approach in third and Morris’ other runner, Folsom Blue, in fourth.
It completed back-to-back wins in the €275,000 feature for owner Michael O’Leary’s Gigginstown Stud and provided 27-year-old Fox, who lives near the course in Ardcath, with a memorable local success.
The focus however was resolutely on Morris, winning his second Irish National as a trainer seven years after also scoring for O’Leary with Hear The Echo, and 39 years after her rode Billycan to land Irish racing’s most coveted steeplechase prize.
Morris has been a stalwart of Irish jump racing for over four decades, and after a succession of near-misses in other big races this season the impact of Rogue Angel’s success was clear on a hugely popular figure.
Fox and Rogue Angel dominated the marathon prize from the start, making most of the running until briefly headed by Bless The Wings after the final fence.
Ruby Walsh appeared to have timed his challenge perfectly but the same resolution that had seen Rogue Angel rally to win last September’s Kerry National reappeared in spades as he fought back to win in a thrilling finish.
Both Fox and Walsh received one day bans afterwards for their use of the whip.
Rule The World had come within an ace of winning the race a year previously and Morris feared he was going to be denied again.
“I thought here we go again. And he’s only won a snot. But it was our day today,” he said before giving a glimpse of the struggle it has been since his 30 year old son was killed by carbon monoxide poisoning while travelling in South America.
“The harder you work, the better off you are,” Morris said. “You have bad days. But thousands of people have been through it.”
The trainer stressed he’d given Fox no instructions beforehand and the jockey repeated the pace-forcing tactics he employed in the Kerry National, Rogue Angel making light of the extra distance and giving a jumping exhibition.
“I wasn’t sure I’d won but Ruby gave me a thump on the back and said ‘well done’ so then I knew,” said Fox. “This is a big help to me. Rides have been getting slim and to win at my local course is a dream come through.”
Rogue Angel thrived on the marathon challenge and had his Aintree Grand National odds halved to 25-1 even though no horse has ever won the Irish and English Nationals in the same year.
Nevertheless Morris isn’t ruling out an audacious double-attempt just 12 days after Rogue Angel’s Fairyhouse heroics.
“I left him in Liverpool in case he fell at the first or something here. I don’t even know if he’ll get into the race. It could depend on any penalty he gets. But we’ll see how he is,” said the trainer who saddled another 16-1 winner on the Easter Monday card, Just Cause.