The Irish have taken over the National Hunt racing circuit in recent years, with Britain left to pick up the scraps at the latest renewals of the Cheltenham Festival after enduring some heavy defeats in the Prestbury Cup — none more so than in 2021, when they embarrassingly lost 23-5 to their cross-sea rivals.
The dominance of Irish racing doesn’t stop there, however. Those from the Emerald Isles have left the Brits red-faced when it comes to the Grand National as well, winning the last four editions of the race the world stops to watch in succession — meaning the hosts haven’t enjoyed National success since One For Arthur romped home for Scottish handler Lucinda Russell in 2017.
2021 was again particularly damning for British racing, with Irish-trained horses taking the top five places in the gruelling contest. The good news is that Russell boasts the favourite this year, with back-to-back Ultima Handicap Chase winner Corach Rambler as short as 8/1 in the Grand National betting.
That said, let’s take a look at the last four Irish raiders who have brought the famous trophy back to their homeland.
The Mullins name is synonymous in the National Hunt racing sphere, with Willie Mullins the most successful trainer in the Cheltenham Festival history and his nephews David and Danny and son Patrick all successful jockeys in their own right.
But it was another nephew who made waves last year, with Emmet landing the Grand National from massive odds of 50/1 with Noble Yeats. The now eight-year-old went into the race with less than convincing form (1469P29), but it was an inspired ride from Sam Waley-Cohen.
The jockey confirmed it would be his last ride in the buildup to the National, and he went out on a bang — tracking the leaders at the 23rd before disputing two out from the finish, making headway at the last and ridden on to win by over two lengths from favourite Any Second Now.
It’s a shame that Henry de Bromhead and Rachael Blackmore’s meteoric rise to the top of the jumps racing scene was initially behind closed doors, but at least they have been able to enjoy memorable moments like A Plus Tard’s Gold Cup success and Honeysuckle’s Mares’ Hurdle send off in front of adoring crowds.
One victory we’re sure they wish didn’t fall on empty stands however, was their Grand National victory in 2021. The pair had just enjoyed a monumental Festival, with De Bromhead winning six races and Blackmore also mounting half-a-dozen-winning rides to claim the Ruby Walsh trophy, and their form carried on to Aintree.
The then eight-year-old set off on the 4m2½f furlong trip as an 11/1 shot and raced in midfield before making his way through the field at around the 19th fence. Four out, Minella Times was battling for second and began to lead on the turn for home before gaining a two-length advantage at the last and staying on to win by over six lengths from stablemate and 100/1 outsider Balko Des Flos. It was an all-Irish 1-2-3-4-5.
With the 2020 renewal of the Grand National cancelled due to the pandemic, you have to go back to 2019 and 2018 for Tiger Roll’s dual successes at Aintree. The Gordon Elliott-trained horse was a general 10/1 shot for his first attempt in 2018 but travelled strongly to join the leaders three out and was six lengths clear at the elbow. However, he was soon ridden and only just held on to win by a head clear of Pleasant Company.
The 4/1 favourite for the defence of his title, Tiger Roll survived stumbles at the 25th and 26th fences to recover and take the lead over the last two. He was soon driven clear from the rest of the field and stayed on to win by almost three lengths from Magic Of Light. Due to the cancellation in 2020, Tiger Roll never got his hattrick attempt.