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Lynch aiming to rekindle Dreaper National flame

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Jim Dreaper has high hopes for Goonyella in the Irish Grand National on Monday. Photo: Patrick McCann

Jim Dreaper has high hopes for Goonyella in the Irish Grand National on Monday. Photo: Patrick McCann

Jim Dreaper has high hopes for Goonyella in the Irish Grand National on Monday. Photo: Patrick McCann

Easter's late arrival this year means that Fairyhouse's traditional Irish Grand National fixture finishes a day early, but the festivities will also begin 24 hours earlier than normal.

At 2.30 in Ashbourne town centre tomorrow, the unveiling of a life-sized memorial statue of the mighty Arkle takes place.

It is 50 years since 'Himself' pulverised his rivals in the prestigious chase, having just initiated his glorious Cheltenham legacy by thumping Mill House in an epic Gold Cup.

"It should have been done years ago, but better late than never," says locally-born rider Andrew Lynch of the magnificent bronze sculpture.

Lynch, whose father Sean is on the commemorative venture's organising committee, will join in the merriment. Then, five miles away two days later, he will strive to add to the Dreaper family's rich legacy in the famous handicap on Goonyella.

INCREDIBLE

Arkle's trainer, Tom Dreaper, farmed an incredible 10 triumphs in a Boylesports-sponsored event that has no domestic peer in terms of historical stature.

Goonyella runs for Dreaper's esteemed son Jim, who has won the €250,000 marathon four times. Brown Lad completed an unmatched treble in 1978, but there has since been a National drought at the famed Greenogue Stables in Meath.

While Lynch would love to win the most valuable chase in the country for himself, he is keenly aware of what it would mean to play a part in rekindling the Dreaper family's enduring legend.

"Easter Monday is always a big deal here, so it would be amazing to win it," the 29-year-old says.

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"Myself and Thomas (Jim's son and lieutenant) grew up together. The Dreapers have been very good to me throughout my career and I think they are excited about going back to Fairyhouse with a chance on Monday.

"It would be lovely to do it for Jim. Thomas will eventually take over the reins at the yard and it'd be nice to see Jim's name back on the roll of honour before then."

Jim Dreaper, who may also saddle Los Amigos in the big race, has been a cornerstone in Lynch's development. He gave him his first point-to-point win on Saxo Du Rocher in 2000 and then gave him the springboard that every young jockey needs by supplying him with a proper horse to ride.

Notre Pere, a throwback to the old-fashioned staying chaser that the Dreapers have always excelled with, was the vehicle.

Lynch (right) won his first Grade One on him at Leopardstown in 2007. A year later, the same heavy duty conveyance plundered an unprecedented Irish success in the Welsh National.

They forged a formidable partnership when conditions were right – bottomless – something that only occurred because Dreaper and his long-standing patron PJ Conway, who also owns Los Amigos, facilitated its possibility.

Lynch was still rough around the edges at the time and few would have blinked in those early days if Dreaper had eschewed him for a more experienced head.

He didn't, though, and was rewarded accordingly. Now, Lynch has matured into one of the steadiest hands in the business.

His Irish National record includes a third on Notre Pere in 2008 and he went a place closer on Dessie Hughes' Western Charmer behind Organisedconfusion in 2011.

A tack failure forced Goonyella out of the race under amateur rider Jamie Flynn last year, while travel difficulties knocked the edge off him in the Welsh equivalent at Chepstow in December.

He recovered to be second to the subsequent Cheltenham winner Don Poli over hurdles at Clonmel,and Lynch feels that fate might have played a crucial role in Goonyella's Easter Monday prospects.

"He just missed the cut for the Aintree Grand National, but that might be all for luck," explains the rider, who completed the Liverpool course for a first time on Buckers Bridge in 11th.

"Maybe it would have come a year too soon for him at seven. He's in good form, so Monday could be his day."

Less stylish than tidy, Lynch has carved a lucrative niche as retained rider to Alan Potts' legions.

He is a ball of strength and sees a lovely stride, but his temperament is his finest asset – as evidenced by his fantastic partnership with Henry de Bromhead's evergreen former champion Sizing Europe.

All the while, the quietly-spoken rider has earned a reputation for his have-saddle-will-travel attitude.

When we spoke on Tuesday, he had been to ride out for fellow Meath man Robbie Hennessy, before throwing his leg over 10 horses in schooling races at Navan and then moving down to the Curragh to educate a few of De Bromhead's in the art of jumping at speed.

That's the work ethic that has earned him four top-10 finishes in the riders' table.

Having recently clocked his first half-century, Lynch is assured a fifth as he sits comfortably in fourth, which would constitute his best finish yet. Incredibly, he has already had 547 rides, with neither Ruby Walsh nor Davy Russell having yet got to the 400 mark. That is a staggering vindication of his methods.

"I'm not one for saying no to people or staying in bed," he says simply in his distinctively droll tone. "I like to keep busy and thankfully it is rewarding. Long may that continue."

Asked if he ever dreams that his endeavours might yield the ultimate accolade of a championship title, he is typically phlegmatic.

"I haven't really ever thought about it," he responds, "but all I can do is my best and try to ride as many winners as I can. As long as I keep doing that, I'll be happy."

The strange paradox of this campaign for Lynch has been that, despite his prolific form, the marquee events remain out of reach.

Flemenstar, on which he enjoyed so many great days for Peter Casey, is sidelined with injury, and Sizing Europe, for all that he threatened to bring down the house at Prestbury Park with a barnstorming effort in the Champion Chase, is all of 12 years old.

Some of Potts' next generation have yet to fully step into the breach, meaning that, for a first time since 2008, in 2013 Lynch got through a whole year without a Grade One. He annexed the Kerry National on Hughes' White Star Line, but the majors have become elusive.

"It has been mixed," he concedes. "Obviously, getting to 50 winners is great, but you miss competing in the big races.

"Losing Flemenstar was a real blow. At the same time, I can't complain about my season and I still maintain that Sizing Europe is up there with the best Irish two-milers.

"I was thrilled with him at Cheltenham and for a few strides turning in I thought we might even win, but then he just plugged on. I'd like to think he will go to Punchestown with a real chance."

Victory there for the venerable old stalwart would be some way to regain the Grade One thread. First, though, there is a more pressing matter closer to home that needs tackling. Go on Yella.

Andrew Lynch factfile

Born: October 5, 1984

From: Ashbourne, Co Meath

Height: 5ft 7in

Lowest riding weight: 9st 10lb

Marital status: Engaged to Riona Teggart

First track winner: Tristernagh (Al O'Connell), Downpatrick, May 18, 2002

First professional winner: Legal Express (James Halpin), Kilbeggan, August 6, 2005

Last five seasonal tallies (GB & Ire): 38, 55, 47, 36, 50 (to date)

BIG-RACE WINNERS

Victram (Ado McGuinness) 2006 Sunderlands Imperial Cup

Notre Pere (Jim Dreaper) 2007 Knight Frank Novice Chase, 2008 Welsh Grand National & 2009 Guinness Gold Cup

Sizing Europe (Henry de Bromhead) 2009 Bord na Mona Novice Chase, 2010 Irish Independent Arkle Trophy, 2011 Queen Mother Champion Chase & Tingle Creek Chase, 2012 Boylesports.com Champion Chase & Dial-A-Bet Chase

Berties Dream (Paul Gilligan) 2010 Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle

Jadanli (Paul Gilligan) 2010 Powers Gold Cup

Voler La Vedette (Colm Murphy) 2011 Bar One Racing Hatton's Grace Hurdle

Rubi Light (Robbie Hennessy) 2011 John Durkan Memorial Chase

Cash And Go (Edward O'Grady) 2011 Future Champions Novice Hurdle

Flemenstar (Peter Casey) 2012 Frank Ward Novice Chase, Powers Gold Cup & John Durkan Memorial Chase

Hisaabaat (Dermot Weld) 2012 AES Champion Four-year-old Hurdle


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