Willie Mullins turns attention to Grand Nationals

Prince De Beauchene and On HisOwn remain on track for Liverpool

Fresh from topping the Cheltenham festival table, Willie Mullins's focus has switched to two Grand National prizes within six days and understandably bookmakers aren't taking any chances on the champion trainer pulling off a remarkable double.

Mullins yesterday reported both Prince De Beauchene and On His Own, who dominate the top of the John Smith's Aintree National betting on Saturday week, as being on track for Liverpool but he won't finalise plans for Easter Monday's Ladbrokes Irish National until later this week.

The Fairyhouse spectacular has proved notably elusive to the all-conquering Mullins over the years, despite which the big-race sponsors rate his Cheltenham festival winner Back In Focus an 8-1 favourite.

"The horses all did a bit this morning and are in good shape but I won't sort things out for Fairyhouse until the confirmation stage," Mullins said. "I don't think I've even had one placed in the Irish National. It hasn't been a lucky race for us so far. Hopefully that might change sometime."


It was always the big fences at Aintree that proved a National priority for the champion handler and he memorably secured victory in 2005 with Hedgehunter.

"I made myself a promise years ago that if I had a National horse I would aim towards Aintree rather than Fairyhouse. So maybe there was a bit of sending the B-team to Fairyhouse," he admitted.

However with nine entries, including the topweight Quel Esprit, the overwhelming strength of the Closutton team looks like having a major influence on the E250,000 Easter showpiece.

The Fairyhouse-Liverpool National double has been pulled off twice by Mullins's stable jockey Ruby Walsh (2000 & 2005) and by Tommy Carberry in 1975. However winning the two marathon prizes in the same year has proved notably difficult.

Even Vincent O'Brien, who landed the Aintree National three years running (1953-54-55,) secured his only Irish National victory the year before the hat-trick began with Alberoni in 1952.

Mullins dominates the betting for the Aintree National but another former winner, Ted Walsh, has his own brace of Liverpool hopefuls in Colbert Station and last year's third, Seabass.

Walsh worked both horses after racing at the Curragh on Sunday evening and reported: It went good. Both seem in good nick. The race is two weeks away so they've got a few more bits of work to do but at the moment I'm happy."

Katie Walsh will again be on board Seabass but she expects the ten year old to face a tougher task this time.

"Seabass gave men an unbelievable spin last year and when we pulled up there was a smile on my face as if I was after winning it. For a few seconds I did think 'My god, I'm not going too bad here' but he emptied a bit on the run-in," she reported.

"I can't wait to try again but it will be tougher. He's a year older and has risen sharply in the weights," Walsh added.

*Leopardstown will host an 8.00 inspection this morning ahead of tomorrow's scheduled fixture as the Co. Dublin track continues to battle the impact of last week's wet weather.

Almost two and a half inches of rain fell on Leopardstown last Thursday and Friday alone and yesterday parts of the course remained unraceable.

Tomorrow's card is the first flat fixture of 2013 and manager Pat Keogh said: "There has been water here where it never appeared before. It is a student-day card so lots of tickets have already been sold and every effort will be made to race if we possibly can."

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

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