The Irish have always been associated with the Grand National, due to two Irish fox-hunting gentlemen Edmund Bake and Cornelius O’Callaghan having given birth to the word ‘steeplechase’ back in 1752. It only seems appropriate given the races origins that the Irish have the greatest overseas impact at the Aintree Grand National, which is run over roughly the same distance as the original country chase from St John’s Church Buttevant to St Marys Church at Doneraile, County Cork.
Irish jockeys and Irish-bred horses have always enjoyed considerable success at Aintree, and there have been 24 winners of the race trained in Ireland since the first Grand National back in 1839. The first was Coolreagh-bred Matthew who won the race in 1847, the 10-1 joint favourite. The next was Abd-El-Kader who became the first dual winner of the Grand National in 1850 and 1851. A long wait and 24 years later The Liberator triumphed, having finished third behind Austerlitz two years earlier.
L’Escargot became the second ever horse to win both the National and the Cheltenham Gold, but unfortunately didn’t do it in the same season as Golden Miller had. He finished third, second and finally first in the Grand Nationals of 1973, 1974 and 1975 respectively, winning by 15 lengths. Trained by Dan Moore of the Fairyhouse yard he beat Red Rum who had won the previous two seasons and went on to win again in 1977.
Jockey of L’Escargot Tommy Carberry trained 1999 Irish and English National winner Bobbyjo, who was ridden by Tommy’s son Paul. The father-son combo quickly caught on and in 2000 Papillon won, with Ted Walsh training and son Ruby riding his first National. 2003 saw Monty’s Pass be victorious by 12 lengths, while Ruby Walsh secured his second National victory on Hedgehunter in 2005. Hedgehunter was a runner up in 2006 behind Irish-trained Numbersixvalverde, Martin Brassil’s first runner in the National.
The Irish were successful again in 2007 with Silver Birch who beat McKelvey by three quarters of a length, and again in 2008 with Comply Or Die, proving that the Irish really do have what it takes in the great race!