Which was the last British-trained winner of the Irish Grand National?
Run over 3 miles 5 furlongs, and 22 stiff fences, the Irish Grand National has been a fixture of the Easter Monday programme at Fairyhouse Racecourse, in Co. Meath, northeastern Ireland, since the late nineteenth century. Worth €500,000 in prize money, Irish Grand National is the most valuable steeplechase run in Ireland and, being a handicap, might be expected to provide tasty bait for British trainers.
Historically, notable British-trained winners of the Irish Grand National include Rhyme ‘N’ Reason (1985), who won the Grand National at Aintree in 1988, and Desert Orchid (1990), who won the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 1989. However, on the whole, British-trained winners of the Irish Grand National have been few and far between.
In fact, since Desert Orchid successfully conceded 26lb and upwards all ’round in 1990 just four horses trained on the opposite side of the Irish Sea have been successful. Desert Orchid was immediately followed by Omerta, trained by Martin Pipe, in 1991, while Jenny Pitman was successful with Mudahim in 1997.
More recently, Gloucestershire trainer Jonjo O’Neill has saddled two winners, both owned by John P. McManus. The first of them, Butler’s Cabin, was ridden to a one-length success by Sir Anthony McCoy in 2007, while the second, Shutthefrontdoor, won by a similar margin under Barry Geraghty in 2014. The following April, Shutthefrontdoor was sent off favourite for the Grand National at Aintree, but faded from the final fence to finish fifth, 13 lengths behind the eventual winner, Many Clouds.