Video: Emotional Mouse Morris holds back tears and he pays tribute to late son following Grand National win
Published 29/03/2016 | 02:30
Mouse Morris felt that he had some ethereal assistance as the aptly-named Rogue Angel yesterday battled back from what looked like certain defeat to secure a dramatic and poignant Irish Grand National victory for Ger Fox.
Last summer, the hugely popular Fethard-based trainer's son Tiffer (Christopher) died after suffering carbon monoxide poisoning in Argentina.
In what has been a harrowing period for Morris, Rogue Angel was the source of some emotionally-charged relief when he rallied bravely to get back up on the line having made the early running in the Kerry National back in September.
Fox, a 27-year-old local from Ardcath, was in the saddle for a first time on that occasion, but Rogue Angel has run three times in the interim without him and without coming close to replicating that coup.
With Bryan Cooper opting for Sub Lieutenant of Gigginstown Stud's eight runners in yesterday's event, opportunity knocked once more.
Or maybe it was fate. Morris certainly felt the hand of a guardian angel, as Rogue Angel repeated the dose under Fox, reproducing his Listowel heroics to plunder an even more moving National success with a lung-bursting late lunge to thwart Gordon Elliott's Ruby Walsh-ridden Bless The Wings by a short-head.
The €275,000 three-mile-five-furlong Fairyhouse feature rarely fails to throw up a fairytale. This thrilling spectacle maintained that tradition, as Morris dedicated his second win in the race as a trainer to his late son.
"Tiffer was looking down on me today," he just about managed to say as he struggled to keep his emotions in check. "It hasn't been the easiest time, but he must have been looking down. I'll dedicate this to him.
"It's one of the most special victories I've had because of the circumstances. I thought he was beaten when they came at him at the last, but you never know until they are past the post and this fellow battles hard. I think Tiffer helped us over the line."
Asked if it had been a struggle to keep the show on the road in the wake of the tragedy that befell his 30-year-old son, Morris replied emphatically.
"No, because you have to keep busy in a situation like that. The harder you work, the better.
"We've had to get on with things. Thousands of people have been through it before and, if it's the case that more people get carbon monoxide alarms installed in their homes as a result of today, I'll be delighted."
Morris, who enjoyed National glory as a jockey aboard Billycan in 1977, in 2008 trained Gigginstown's first Irish National winner, Hear The Echo. In Rule The World and Band Of Blood, he saddled the 2015 runner-up and fourth behind Thunder And Roses, all three of which were owned by Michael O'Leary's all-conquering firm.
This, then, constituted a continuation of their sensational records in the race, and Morris had earlier initiated a 288/1 brace on the card with Just Cause, another Gigginstown 16/1 shot.
Cooper led briefly early on Sub Lieutenant. However, Fox then allowed Rogue Angel to stride on in front, and thereafter they were allowed to dictate.
When Walsh manoeuvred Bless The Wings onto Rogue Angel's heels as they turned into the home straight, there was a clear target on Fox's back. He had brought Bless The Wings through with customary composure from the rear and the outcome looked inevitable.
Bless The Wings touched down in front over the final fence, so now Fox had something to chase. He galvanised one last burst out of Rogue Angel.
The dour eight-year-old, which had been heavily backed from 33/1 into 16/1, found just enough to get up and then cling on to deny Bless The Wings' persistent challenge, in the process giving his Glenview Stud sire Presenting its third Irish National victor.
Ballyadam Approach took third, with Folsom Blue again ensuring Morris secured O'Leary the €13,740 for fourth. The Ryanair supremo, fresh from Don Cossack's Gold Cup heroics at Cheltenham, was on holiday, but it's safe to assume he will be more pleased with his long-serving ally's snaring of the €152,000 win purse.
"Jumping and stamina are his two strongest attributes," Morris mused of the blinkered Rogue Angel. "I was surprised that he was able to make it; they can't have gone a great gallop because he wouldn't have been quick enough to make it if they had.
"Ger gets on well with him. I didn't give him any instructions at all because he rode him at Listowel so he knows him.
"I left the horse in the English National in case he fell at the first here or anything, but we'll have to see how he is. He has done his job here."
Fox and Walsh both got a one-day ban for their use of the whip, although the winning rider certainly didn't appear unduly concerned. "This is a dream come true," the three-pound claimer beamed in his finest hour.
"I come from only 15 minutes down the road, so this is my local track. It's only the second time that I have ridden Rogue Angel so to win a Kerry National on him and now this is unreal. Even though he was headed at the last, I knew he'd stay and he battled back."
On a day tinged with melancholy, champion conditional elect Jack Kennedy rode the 40th winner of a remarkable first season on Morris's Just Cause.
Their cause was helped by the theatrical catapult-like unseating of Ambrose McCurtain from Sonny B at the final flight, while Gigginstown concluded with a treble when Patrick Mullins drove Blow By Blow home in front of Death Duty in the bumper.
The 7/4 shot was champion trainer Willie Mullins's first winner since Cheltenham.
After 23 successive losers, it's reassuring to know that the great man hasn't lost his touch.