As a novice hurdler he’d chased home The New One in the Neptune at the Cheltenham Festival, and was touted as a future Gold Cup winner.
Rule The World finally fulfilled that huge potential when winning the 2016 Grand National; incredibly his first success in 14 attempts over fences. A shuddering error at the fourth last failed to halt his momentum, and approaching the final fence his young jockey David Mullins had him on the tail of the leading pair. At the elbow three horses ran side by side, but it was Rule The World who stayed on powerfully to sweep past both The Last Samuri and Vics Canvas in a pulsating finish.
An overwhelmed winning trainer Mouse Morris found it difficult to talk when interviewed after the win. He had won the Irish National less than two weeks earlier and was clearly overcome. Speaking a little later he said: “I’d have settled for third and been delighted with it. I think we got a bit of help from someone today. He’s had two fractured pelvises and I thought before that he was the best I’d ever had - he probably was. He’s a typically National horse in that he’s big and jumps well, and has that little bit of class. It’s a dream to think he’d win a Grand National.”
Both the young winning jockey and owner Michael O’Leary were keen to praise the trainer's efforts. David Mullins, nephew of trainer Willie, is only 19 and was riding in the Grand National for the first time. He said: “Coming across the Melling Road I knew I was going well and at the second last I heard Davy Russell give me a shout, saying ‘Go on David!’, but it was only at the line I realised I’d done it. All credit to Mouse, he's a genius and the best man in the world for the big day. It's brilliant.”
“This horse could have been Gold Cup standard but for the injuries he has suffered,” said Gigginstown supremo O’Leary. “He’s nine now and after that we could retire him - I wouldn't want to bring him back here again, and Mouse will have to decide how he comes out of this race, but if he never runs again who cares?”
Trainer of the second, Kim Bailey, knows that his eight-year-old has time on his side, and is likely to have several more cracks at the ‘big one’. Bailey said: “There’s only one place you want to be at Aintree and I was lucky enough to be there with Mr Frisk. I hate being second, I can’t even explain the feeling. He travelled brilliantly through the race, the rain wouldn’t have helped but what a great run. He never made a mistake the whole way round. I hope we haven’t had our share of winning and it will be our turn next year.”
He added: “It’s the longest run-in you can possibly imagine. I was standing here screaming - my voice has gone. We’ve beaten the third horse, but another horse has come on the outside from nowhere. I’m just so proud. We’ll do it all over again next year 12lb worse off.”
Arguably the most astounding performance came from the 100/1 shot and 13-year-old Vics Canvas, who at the elbow looked capable of winning. Trained by Dermot McLoughlin, the veteran chaser is part-owned by At The Races presenter Gary O’Brien and had won the Paddy Power Cork Grand National back in 2014. The marathon trip and testing conditions proved ideal for the Old Vic gelding, but he just found a couple a little too quick for him at the business end.
Reflecting on a thrilling performance, O'Brien spoke of what could have been, when saying: “There was just a moment when he jumped the last and he headed The Last Samuri for two or three strides that I thought he might win, but then I looked behind and I could see Rule The World in the slipstream of the two of them.
Speaking on Sunday he added: “The way he ran yesterday it is probably hard to think about retiring him as in the run-up to the race all the talk was about it being one of the strongest ever Grand Nationals and if he had not made that mistake at Becher's first time round he might have been closer.”
The 2015 winner Many Clouds trailed home last of the finishers having held every chance five fences from home. The combination of a blunder at that fence, along with hauling top-weight in testing ground put paid to his chances. Oliver Sherwood spoke of a return next year, and given a sounder surface you wouldn’t count him out.
As for Gigginstown, an incredible spell that has gleaned two nationals and a Gold Cup in less than a month once again displays the firepower they possess when it comes to staying chasers.