In recent years the Irish have had incredible success at the Aintree Grand National but its association and links go much deeper than that. In fact, it was two Irish fox-hunting gentlemen Edmund Bake and Cornelius O’Callaghan who coined the phrase ‘steeplechase’ back in 1752.
It only seems appropriate given the race’s 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. There have been 25 winners of the race trained in Ireland since the first Grand National back in 1839.
History Of The Winners
We all know how difficult it is to train a Grand National winner. So difficult in fact that few have ever managed to do it on more than one occasion.
In fact, you’d have more chance of winning at GGPoker than training a National winner.
Or indeed riding one as Richard Johnson discovered before his retirement. He holds the infamous record of most rides in the race without a win.
The first Irish-trained winner was the 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. It then took another 24 years before The Liberator triumphed.
Trainer Henry Linde and jockey Tommy Beasley saddled the winner for Ireland in 1881, winning with Woodbrook, who revelled in the boggy conditions.
The 1900s were a relatively quiet period for Irish trained Grand National winners. In fact, since 1999 there have been nearly as many winners as the whole of the century before.
From 1999 To Now
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.
Of course, it would be remiss to talk about this great race and not mention Tiger Roll, the two-time winner trained by Gordon Elliott was a fan favourite and was nearly on for a hattrick before the 2020 race was cancelled.
When racing resumed and the 2021 renewal took place behind closed doors, spirits were not dampened. On the back of a remarkable Cheltenham Festival, jockey Rachael Blackmore and trainer Henry De Bromhead pinned their hopes on Minella Times.
And the horse did not disappoint. Blackmore made history as the first female jockey to win the race and De Bromhead was able to add it to his impressive haul for the year.
List Of Irish Trained Grand National Winners
- 2021 – Minella Times – Henry De Bromhead
- 2019 – Tiger Roll – Gordon Elliott
- 2018 – Tiger Roll – Gordon Elliott
- 2016 – Rule The World – Mouse Morris
- 2007 – Silver Birch – Gordon Elliott
- 2006 – Numbersixvalverde – Martin Brassil
- 2005 – Hedgehunter – Willie Mullins
- 2003 – Monty’s Pass – Jimmy Mangan
- 2000 – Papillon – Ted Walsh
- 1999 – Bobbyjo – Tommy Carberry
- 1975 – L’Escargot – Tommy Carberry
- 1958 – Mr What – Tom Taaffe
- 1955 – Quare Times – Vincent O’Brien
- 1954 – Royal Tan – Vincent O’Brien
- 1953 – Early Mist – Vincent O’Brien
- 1947 – Caughoo – Herbert Mcdowell
- 1939 – Workman – Jack Ruttle
- 1920 – Troytown – Algy Anthony
- 1900 – Ambush – Algy Anthony
- 1881 – Woodbrook – Henry Linde
- 1879 – The Liberator – J. Moore
- 1855 – Wanderer – John Hanlon (Jockey)
- 1851 – Abd-El-Kader – Joseph Osborne
- 1850 – Abd-El-Kader – Joseph Osborne
- 1847 – Mathew – John Murphy
A resurgence in Irish horse racing was always threatening. The last twenty years have been incredibly fruitful for those who opt to send their horses across the pond.
So much so that festivals in the UK are now dominated by Irish entries and winners. Will we see another bumper year for them again in 2022? We will have to wait and see.