Sunday 23 October 2016

Morris dedicates Rule The World's fairytale National victory to son

Greg Wood

Published 10/04/2016 | 02:30

Rule The World and David Mullins close the gap on The Last Samuri ridden by David Bass and Vics Canvas ridden by Robert Dunne during yesterday’s Grand National Photo: PA
Rule The World and David Mullins close the gap on The Last Samuri ridden by David Bass and Vics Canvas ridden by Robert Dunne during yesterday’s Grand National Photo: PA

Twelve days after winning the Irish National, Mouse Morris sent out Rule The World to win the Grand National itself here yesterday, and his thoughts turned immediately to the son who was not there to share the moment. "We got a bit of help from somewhere," Morris said. "Tiffer was working overtime for me."

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Tragedy is a word that is used far too freely, not least in the context of horses running around a racecourse. It was the right word here, however, as Morris is still coming to terms with the loss of Christopher, his 30-year-old son, in June last year.

"Mouse lost his eldest son to carbon monoxide poisoning last year when he was on holiday in Argentina," Michael O'Leary, the winner's owner, said afterwards. "Tiffer was his nickname. Nothing can replace the loss of a son, but to win the Irish Grand National and now the Grand National, it shows that life goes on."

Every trainer who leads in a Grand National winner has achieved something extraordinary, but Morris can feel particularly proud of himself for preparing Rule The World, a horse that had never previously won a race over fences, to take the most demanding race of all. Having now broken his duck, there is also a possibility, at least, that he will not race again, as O'Leary said afterwards that he "would hate to lose a Grand National winner".

Rule The World has already suffered a fractured pelvis twice during his racing career, which makes the achievement of both horse and trainer all the more impressive. His lack of a previous win in a steeplechase may have contributed to his 33/1 starting price, but he had no trouble powering away from The Last Samuri, the 8/1 joint-favourite, after four-and-a-quarter miles on rain-softened ground.

The going at Aintree was heavy in places by the time the race set off at its new time of 5.15, and the conditions soon started to take a toll on the field. Holywell, one of the favourites, was an early casualty, while Silviniaco Conti, one of the best chasers in training, was pulled up before halfway.

Many Clouds, successful last year, was soon settled and going well for Leighton Aspell in his attempt to become the first dual winner since Red Rum in 1974, but faded quickly after an uncharacteristic jumping error with about a mile to run. Rule The World, though, was travelling well throughout for David Mullins, his 19-year-old jockey, who was riding in the race for the first time.

Bryan Cooper, O'Leary's retained jockey, had the choice between three runners in the race, but opted for First Lieutenant, also trained by Morris, who fell at the second fence. Mullins, a nephew of the leading trainer Willie, remained impressively composed as Rule The World worked his way into the race behind The Last Samuri, and as they returned towards the final two fences, Vics Canvas, a 100/1 shot, also moved into contention. The three horses were side-by-side as they reached the Elbow and a photo-finish seemed a likely outcome, but as soon as Mullins asked Rule The World for a final effort, he surged clear to win by six lengths.

Many Clouds finished last of the 16 horses to complete, from an initial field of 39, and for the fourth year running, there were no serious injuries to any of the runners and riders.

O'Leary, the driving force behind Ryanair and a man famous for sometimes letting his mouth run away with him, admitted after his latest big-race success that he was - almost - speechless.

"You could not win it with a nicer person or someone more deserving than Mouse," O'Leary said. "He's been an amazing horse, but what a trainer Mouse is. He doesn't have a big number of horses but, when he gets them there on the day, they tend to perform extraordinarily well. I am delighted for Mouse, he has had a difficult year and I think this will be the cream on top."

In contrast to Rule The World's owner, Morris is a man of few words, but the emotion attached to his horse's success was clear. "I would have been delighted if he had finished third," he said. "It's just Disneyland, fairytale stuff."

A mistake at the fourth-last was the only hiccup in an otherwise excellent round of jumping by the winner, whose failure to win a single one of his 12 previous races over fences now seems more baffling than ever. He finished second in a Grade One at Leopardstown in December, and second in last season's Irish National as well, so the class was there and Mullins performed brilliantly to harness it with so little previous experience at Aintree.

"What an aptly-named horse," Mullins said. "I've never had a feeling like this. Everything just went to plan.

"Credit to Mouse, he told me before that this is probably one of the best horses he's ever had, he's just had small problems, so to get the call to ride this one was amazing. It's his first win over fences, which is even more amazing than me having a first ride over them."

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