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Freewheelin Dylan storms to Irish National glory at 150-1

Freewheelin Dylan caused a seismic shock with a 150-1 victory in the BoyleSports Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse.

Dermot McLoughlin’s charge was widely unconsidered for the €400,000 showpiece on what was his first appearance since finishing last of eight runners at Punchestown in October.

However, ridden brilliantly by Ricky Doyle, the nine-year-old was in front after jumping the first fence and was never headed.

Thyestes Chaser runner-up Run Wild Fred looked a big danger rounding the home turn, but could never quite get on terms with Freewheelin Dylan, who galloped all the way to the line for a one-and-a-quarter-length win.

Run Wild Fred was a clear second, with Enjoy D’allen third and 9-2 favourite Latest Exhibition a creditable fourth under the welter burden of 11st 10lb.

McLoughlin said: “It’s great – it went to plan. I said to Ricky ‘he likes to bowl along in front and jumping is his forte, so use him up’.

“I was a bit concerned about not getting a run into him. I said turning into the straight that we’d better start shouting, because I knew he’d stay going.”

Dermot McLoughlin (right) with Freewheelin Dylan at Fairyhouse
Dermot McLoughlin (right) with Freewheelin Dylan at Fairyhouse (Niall Carson/PA)

He added: “It’s a race I always wanted to have runners in, let alone try to win it. My father (Liam McLoughlin) rode the winner in 1962 (Kerforo), so I was always trying to follow.

“We’re based three miles down the road and we’ll keep progressing the best we can.

“I was 47 the other day. We have good help and good staff and we have some nice horses.

“Coming here I thought we had a good chance and thankfully it’s worked out.”

Jockey Ricky Doyle after his Irish Grand National win
Jockey Ricky Doyle after his Irish Grand National win (Niall Carson/PA)

Doyle told ITV Racing: “I could not believe it – I thought everything was too good to be true! His jumping is just out of this world, but how well he travelled and the rhythm he was in (was unbelievable).

“Turning in I could feel horses on me and I could feel him picking up. I was trying to do the maths in my head and was thinking ‘did I jump the last the first time’? I was in a dream the whole way.

“He’s a proper summer ground horse. I won a Midlands National on him in the same way. I was just so happy with everything that I couldn’t believe it.

“This means everything to me. I love this sport and I love horses – I couldn’t care if there was nothing to the winner.

“I’m over the moon.”

Mullins has five-strong team going for Irish National honours

Willie Mullins has five runners as he attempts to win the BoyleSports Grand National at Fairyhouse for just a second time after Burrows Saint in 2019.

Mullins ended his hoodoo in style when saddling the first three home when the race was last run as it was cancelled due to the pandemic last year.

He will be hoping for a similar result again in the Easter Monday feature with the Closutton handler represented by Brahma Bull, Salsaretta, Agusta Gold, Dragon D’Estruval and Robin De Carlow, while Burrows Saint is a leading fancy for the Randox Grand National at Aintree on Saturday.

His assistant David Casey gave the latest on the stable’s quintet.

“The better ground will help Brahma Bull. He was pulled up in the Thyestes on heavy ground, but he will be better on the drier ground,” he said.

Willie Mullins has five runners in the Irish Grand National
Willie Mullins has five runners in the Irish Grand National (Niall Carson/PA)

“Salsaretta ran well in Cheltenham. Hopefully that won’t have too much of an effect on her. It was a tough race, but the step up in trip with suit.

“Agusta Gold is new to the yard so we are still learning about her. She has some decent form in the book. The trip won’t be an issue. She goes there with a chance.

“Dragon D’Estruval has been hunter chasing. The trip will suit and hopefully he can be competitive.

“Robin De Carlow hasn’t run for a long time, but has some very good form in the book. She might need the race after such a long break, but she has been working and schooling well so hopefully she can run a good race.”

Peter Fahey is hoping conditions are not too quick for The Big Dog, who is due to line up after claiming a game success in the Grand National Trial at Punchestown in February.

Top amateur Jamie Codd was in the saddle that day and the pair will maintain their association at Fairyhouse, as long as conditions will suit.

Jamie Codd rides The Big Dog for trainer Peter Fahey
Jamie Codd rides The Big Dog for trainer Peter Fahey (Niall Carson/PA)

Fahey said: “He’s in good nick. It’s a very competitive race, but hopefully the ground isn’t too quick. We’re going to walk the track and see how things are.

“He’s in very good form and it’s great the weights went up so Jamie is more comfortable doing the weight on him.

“Fingers crossed he can put in a big run for the owners.”

Joseph O’Brien is surprised Sempo is prominent in the betting as he is short on experience.

The Joseph O'Brien-trained Sempo is prominent in the betting for the Irish Grand National
The Joseph O’Brien-trained Sempo is prominent in the betting for the Irish Grand National (PA)

“In my opinion people might be getting a little carried away as he’s completed three of his five chase runs and now he jumps into an Irish National. I think it’s a bigger ask than what is being said.” he told Betfair.

“It’s a different ball game, he was relatively lightly-raced over hurdles as well. Experience-wise I think it’s a big ask, but there’s no doubt he’s a talented horse and he’s proved that in the past.”

O’Brien expects his other runner, Home By The Lee, to put up a good show.

“We’re looking forward to Home By The Lee as well, who has a little bit more experience but is still a novice,” he added.

“He wears a hood in his training as he can be a handful, but he stays very well.”

Ciaran Murphy has always felt Enjoy D’Allen might develop into an Irish National contender.

“The first time we ran him, we thought he had the profile for a race like this if he kept progressing and he did,” said the Mullingar handler.

“We’ve had a dream run with him up to his last prep run which was three weeks to the day of the National, which is absolutely perfect.

“He does tick the boxes. I’m not saying he’s going to go and win, but the last day in Naas if he hadn’t fluffed his lines at the last, he galloped on through the line and we know he wants a little further than three miles.”

Trainer Noel Meade saddles Brace Yourself and Eurobot in the Irish Grand National
Trainer Noel Meade saddles Brace Yourself and Eurobot in the Irish Grand National (Nial Carson/PA)

Noel Meade revealed he has had this race in kind for Brace Yourself for some time.

“We’re happy he got in. It has been his target for a while. He had a good run over the trip at the end of last year,” he said.

“We possibly could have run him again, but he had a setback and he’s come out of it well. We’re very happy with his progress and very happy with the work he’s done, so we’re expecting a good run.

“Eurobot also got in and I think he’ll like the better ground.”

Nolan looking to Latest to rise to National challenge

Latest Exhibition bids to overcome his relative inexperience as well as defy top weight in the BoyleSports Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse on Monday.

The Paul Nolan-trained novice has had just four races over fences, but he has shown plenty of potential, especially when runner-up to Monkfish in two Grade One races.

Connections decided not to take on Monkfish again at Cheltenham last month, having suffered defeat in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle last year.

“I just hope we have made the right decision in missing Cheltenham,” said Nolan.

“You can’t be afraid of one horse, but we’ve run against Monkfish three times and he’s beaten us three times.

“We just thought with the time frame, this race suited us better than Cheltenham. We had it in our minds early on the Irish National – provided he got what we thought was a favourable mark – would be his target.

“At the end of the day he’d be one of the most inexperienced horses in the field. The biggest field he’s run in was the Albert Bartlett last year. Other than that it has been relatively small fields. Of course that is a worry.

“There’s a lot of worries, but there is no point harbouring on them. When you run for prize money like this, you’re going to expect big fields and you’re going to have worries, but once the jockey is on his back and the race starts, there is nothing you can do and there is no point in worrying.

“Ideally it would have been great if Tiger Roll had stayed in, but that’s the way it is. He’s got top weight for a reason.”

Nolan reports his stable star to be in tip-top shape and expects him to stay the three miles and five furlongs.

“We couldn’t be happier with the horse. We’re just hoping we get a bit of luck in running and he comes home safe,” the County Wexford trainer went on.

“I think he will get the trip, but you never know until you go over it. I’m hoping if his jumping is good enough, I’d be surprised if the trip is a problem and the ground will be beautiful.”

Fitzhenry (right) is trainer Paul Nolan's second string in the Irish Grand National
Fitzhenry (right) is trainer Paul Nolan’s second string in the Irish Grand National (PA)

Nolan believes his other runner, Fitzhenry, could surprise a few people and run a decent race.

“He’s in good form. He had a very nice run the last day. We rode him a bit different and it seemed to work,” he said.

“I thought he galloped to the line very well. He’s got a nice weight, he’s got a good man (Darragh O’Keeffe) on his back, hopefully he runs a respectable race and he certainly has an each-way chance in my book.”

Latest Exhibition tops Irish Grand National field

Latest Exhibition heads the weights for the BoyleSports Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse on Easter Monday after Tiger Roll was taken out of the race at the final declaration stage.

The dual Grand National hero will head back to Aintree instead next week for the Betway Bowl.

Tiger Roll’s owners Gigginstown House Stud have four Irish National runners – Coko Beach, Mortal, Run Wild Fred and Roaring Bull – plus one of the three reserves, Eurobot.

The absence of Tiger Roll means the Paul Nolan-trained novice Latest Exhibition now carries top weight of 11st 10lb.

The eight-year-old steps into handicap company for the first time after finishing second to Monkfish in two Grade One contests at Leopardstown over the winter. He sidestepped another clash with Willie Mullins’ exciting prospect at last month’s Cheltenham Festival to wait for this weekend.

Mullins is well-represented with a team of five – Brahma Bull, Salsaretta, Agusta Gold, Dragon D’estruval and Robin De Carlow.

Among other fancied runners to stand their ground are Sempo and The Big Dog.

Escaria Ten, third in the National Hunt Challenge cup at Cheltenham, is one of four contenders for Denise Foster.

The Philip Hobbs-trained Jerrysback is the only English runner.

Tiger Roll still in Irish Grand National reckoning

Tiger Roll heads 60 horses still in contention for the BoyleSports Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse.

With connections deciding against bidding for an historic third victory in the Randox Grand National at Aintree on Saturday week, Tiger Roll is set to run in either the Irish equivalent on Monday or Aintree’s Betway Bowl three days later.

Eddie O’Leary, racing manager for owners Gigginstown House Stud, said following Wednesday’s forfeit stage for the Irish Grand National: “No decision has been made on where Tiger Roll will run yet.

“It will either be the Irish National or the Bowl.”

The hugely popular 11-year-old proved he is no back number with a brilliant display in the Glenfarclas Chase on his latest outing – his third victory in the cross-country event, and a remarkable fifth Cheltenham Festival success overall.

If he does line up at Fairyhouse, however, he will have to concede lumps of weight all round.

Gigginstown have a total of 14 possible runners, with O’Leary adding: “Run Wild Fred and Coko Beach would look the main ones.”

Paul Nolan’s stable star Latest Exhibition is also among the confirmations, but still has the option of running in the Underwriting Exchange Gold Cup at Fairyhouse 24 hours earlier.

Champion trainer Willie Mullins, who finally broke his Irish Grand National duck with Burrows Saint when the race was last run in 2019, has six remaining contenders – including new recruit Agusta Gold.

Other leading hopes include Joseph O’Brien’s Sempo, Peter Fahey’s The Big Dog and Escaria Ten – who is trained by Denise Foster as are Tiger Roll, Run Wild Fred and Coko Beach.

Latest Exhibition (nearside) still has two options at Fairyhouse over the Easter weekend
Latest Exhibition (nearside) still has two options at Fairyhouse over the Easter weekend (PA)

The 400,000 euro contest is supported by three Grade Two events on a quality card.

Noel Meade’s Jeff Kidder, winner of the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham, is one of 10 contenders for the Rathbarry And Glenview Studs Juvenile Hurdle – with the unbeaten Teahupoo among his potential rivals.

The Underwriting Exchange Hurdle appears an intriguing affair – with Abacadabras, Beacon Edge and Petit Mouchoir among those in contention.

The third and final Grade Two of the afternoon is the Devenish Chase, for which O’Brien’s Fakir D’oudairies sets the standard.

The JP McManus-owned six-year-old has finished second in three of his four starts this season – most recently chasing home the hugely impressive Allaho in Cheltenham’s Ryanair Chase.

Fairyhouse officials would love to see Tiger Roll in Irish National

Officials at Fairyhouse have not given up hope of Tiger Roll running in the BoyleSports Irish Grand National on Easter Monday.

The 11-year-old bounced back to winning ways with an incredible fifth victory at the Cheltenham Festival last week, putting behind him a winless run stretching back to the 2019 Grand National at Aintree.

As his owners Gigginstown House Stud have already withdrawn him from the Aintree spectacular this year – where he would have been trying to equal Red Rum’s achievement of winning the race three times – Tiger Roll’s options now include the Bowl at Aintree, the Punchestown Gold Cup and the Irish National.

Peter Roe, general manager at Fairyhouse, said: “If Tiger Roll shows up we’d love that. For the team at Cullentra to get him back to the form he was in – from flag-fall you could tell he was loving it.”

After a very wet winter, the ground at Fairyhouse has dried up considerably but the weather could turn again before Easter.

“January and February were the wettest two months on record since we began recording, but we’ve had a dry fortnight,” said Roe.

“It’s unsettled going forward, but we’re yielding at the moment. I’m very happy.

“The support we have got from HRI and BoyleSports to keep the money at €400,000 is amazing. To get in this year you’ll be looking at (a handicap mark of) 136/137 so the quality is rising all the time.”

On that theme Irish handicapper Andrew Shaw admitted he found it just as hard as his British Horseracing Authority counterpart Martin Greenwood to put a figure on Tiger Roll before coming up with 163.

“It was difficult (to give him a mark) as it has been mentioned by Mr (Eddie) O’Leary that he is not as good as the Al Boum Photos and Minella Indos of the world. They think he should be getting a lot more weight off them, but he hasn’t run in a chase over park fences since November 2017,” said Shaw.

“We don’t take the form over the cross-country fences quite as literally as they do in Britain, but at the same time he has won the Aintree Grand National twice. He was in at Aintree off 166, he’s 3lb lower here which is pretty much the same as last year, though I know neither race was run.

“He’s 11 now, time catches up with us all. He won his Grand National off 159, so he’s only 4lb higher here. It’s a fair drop from the 171 which he was after his second National. It was difficult for Martin to drop the horse because he hasn’t run against Grade One horses, so we don’t know how good he is.

“He certainly looked as good last week as he had before in that race. What will make it difficult for Tiger Roll is that we have progressive novices in it, you don’t get those at Aintree.

“I’d love to see him run. I know he could run in the Betway Bowl, but he’d be wrong in that race against a few.”

The Bunny Boiler winning the Irish Grand National
The Bunny Boiler winning the Irish Grand National (Haydn West/PA)

One trainer with multiple entries is Noel Meade, who won the race with The Bunny Boiler in 2002.

“It is still my favourite win, I have to say. Fairyhouse to me was the place I got started as we weren’t a racing family, but we used to take a picnic there for the National,” said Meade.

“When I was growing up I had a scrapbook of Tom Dreaper and he won the National so many times – to stand in the place he did when I’d won was very special.

“I owe Ross Geraghty, Barry’s brother, for staying on him, he did everything he could to fall. He was quite a good horse, but a terrible jumper. Norman Williamson was telling me the other day that he won the Midlands National on him and was asked to ride at Fairyhouse but he said there was no chance he’d get round!”

Among Meade’s team are School Boy Hours and Brace Yourself, but both need plenty of withdrawals to guarantee a run in the maximum field of 30.

“School Boy Hours might not get in, but I always thought the trip would suit,” said Meade.

“Brace Yourself will take his chance, but wouldn’t want the ground too quick. Tout Est Permis hasn’t been running well, but he could go over to Aintree and see if a trip over livens him up. Brace Yourself is a fresh horse, but he’s only a novice.”