For those of you who follow the National Hunt season it won't come as a surprise that the Boylesports Irish Grand National takes place on Monday – March 28th 2016, at Fairyhouse, Ireland. In 2013 it was run before the Aintree Grand National and that is because historically the Irish National always takes place on Easter Monday so the timing of it can change radically every year which is why in 2014 it was two and half weeks after Aintree, 2015 it was a week before and in 2016 it will once again be 2 weeks before.
This race always has a story and 2012 was no different when local horse Lion Na Bearnai powered up the straight to give Meath jockey Andrew Thornton and Kells trainer Thomas Gibney and victory of a lifetime.
In 2013 10 year old Liberty Counsel won it for trainer Dot Love and jockey Ben Dalton carrying only 9-05!
The Irish National first took place in 1870, and the first winner was a horse called Sir Robert Peel. As now the race took place at Fairyhouse Racecourse and the winner's prize money was 167 sovereigns. During the early years it was often won by horses trained at the Curragh, and there were ten such winners by 1882. The Easter Monday fixture regularly attracted racegoers from Dublin, and it became known as the Dubs' Day Out.
Several winners of the Irish Grand National have also gone on to win the English Grand National at Aintree, but none have done so in the same year. First to attain the double was Ascetics's Silver who won the Irish National in 1904 and the English National in 1906. More recent winners of this double have been Rhyme ‘n' Reason, Bobbyjo and Numbersixvalverde. The most successful horse in the Irish National's history with three wins is Brown Lad who ran in the seventies.
Certainly Roi Du Mee, who was scratched from the 2013 Grand National by trainer Gordon Elliott, fancied his chances in Dublin where the ground at the time was proving to be a lot better than at some of the courses in the UK. The Irish had not been as badly affected by the terrible rain, wind, snow and generally poor conditions that many of the UK trainers have had to contend with over the 2012/13 season so it wasn't surprising that the Irish National attracted so many entries.
When you consider that the prize for winning is a whopping €141,000 then you can see why it's such an attractive prospect, so much so that trainer Willie Mullins entered nine horses in 2013, Noel Meade entered seven and Gordon Elliott and Dessie Hughes entered five each.
The course is slightly shorter than at Aintree and the race is run over 3m 5f and in 2014 there will be plenty of horses in contention for the starting line-up which has a maximum of 30 runners. Interestingly, many of them will also be in the running for Aintree which will take place a couple of weeks earlier so we tend to see more withdrawals if trainers opt for Aintree. Up until 1991 the distance of the Irish Grand National was 3 miles 4 furlongs one furlong shorter than the current distance.
In the past the Irish Grand National was sponsored by Irish Distillers under various titles up to 2010. For a spell between 2011 and 2013 Ladbrokes sponsored the race. In 2014, Boylesports took over as Irish Grand National sponsor and appointed the jockey Barry Geraghty as the first ever ambassador for the race, promoting the race through various channels, including social media.