Irish Grand National Best Bits

Estimated read time 4 min read

The three-day Fairyhouse Irish Grand National Festival has wrapped up, from the highs of Paul Townend’s ride on I Am Maximus to the low of losing Mighty Potter, the three days brought us on a rollercoaster of emotions.

That Ride

There are a lot of highlights from the Easter Festival, but there is only one place to start, which will always be known as “that ride”.

Just last month everyone in racing was singing the praise of Paul Townend after one of the ballsiest rides you will ever see on Galopin Des Champs when taking the 2023 Gold Cup at the Cheltenham Festival, but little did we know that Paul had one more up his sleeve on one of the most trickiest horses in training, I Am Maximus.

I Am Maximus, recently acquired by JP McManus is a horse for the lack of a better word, has his own ideas of either being a race horse or a free spirit with the ability to do whatever the hell he wants bar racing to the best of his ability.

It was an all too familiar site with I Am Maximus jumping out to his left, lugging in behind horses and just being a horrible ride. But step up Paul Towned to produce one of, if not the greatest rides we have ever seen.

After the first-mile plan A to Z went out the window and it was natural horsemanship that took over to somehow produce I Am Maximus at the last to take over and win going away to record the most unlikeliest Irish Grand National wins ever.

Speaking from the comfort of his home after hip replacement surgery, trainer W P Mullins said.

“I had tied Paul down to instructions and after the first circuit I think he just threw my playbook out the window!” Mullins laughed from the comfort of his home. “I had suggested exactly what he did on the first circuit – go down the inside. The horse hated every minute of it. Paul just said we better go to some other plan now because this isn’t working and he did the exact opposite to what I said to him to do. That’s one of his qualities. He takes it into his own hands when things aren’t working out and it paid off in spades there.”

After recording his first Irish Grand National victory Paul Towned gave an insight from on top of the 2023 Irish Grand National winner.

“This is a very special race but it was looking unlikely for a long way, to be honest,” he admitted afterwards. “He was too slow jumping down the inside. It was putting me out of the race and I just had to try and let him go left then. I banked on getting one at the last and thankfully I did.”

The Return of Monkfish 

It was 713 days since we last set eyes on the Big Beautiful Chestnut Looking Bast**d, and it was worth the wait.

The money that arrived said that he was ready to go, but as we stated on the Irish Grand National Preview show he will have his work cut out to beat a race-fit Asterion Forlonge.

He traveled with all his old zest, but the big question was, how much talent remained?

But to the delight of everyone, it all seemed to be there.

The 17+ hands figure loomed up wide on the outside coming to the last and the crowd erupted as Monkfish and Asterion Forlonge landed running at the back of the last, and for a few strides it looked like Monkfish was going to make a winning comeback, but fitness seemed to tell and Asterion Folonge fitness told to win by 1/2L.

Will the result be the same if they come to the last again? I don’t think so, and we might find out at the 2023 Punchestown Festival in the Stayers Hurdle.

Some might say they will go for the Punchestown Gold Cup, but, I for one would think it would be a bad decision to go to the Gold Cup as his first run over fences in open company; and who knows, if all goes well at Punchestown there is a weak Stayers Hurdles division there for the taking at the 2024 Cheltenham Festival.

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