Sport Horse Racing

Tuesday 17 September 2019

Patrick Mullins: 'I don't like Irish National but I'd love to see 'Burrows' win it for the team'


Rachael Blackmore pats Honeysuckle down her mane after the pair’s victory in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares Novice Hurdle Championship Final at Fairyhouse. Photo: PA Wire.
Rachael Blackmore pats Honeysuckle down her mane after the pair’s victory in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares Novice Hurdle Championship Final at Fairyhouse. Photo: PA Wire.

Patrick Mullins

I don't like the Irish National.

My first memory of it is a freeze frame of Ruby walking back in green silks on Papillon's back after just losing to the red and yellow of Carberry on Bobbyjo in '98.

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I was only a kid at the time, but I can still see his face. Frustration. Disgust. Cold anger. A volcano trapped in an iceberg. I've seen him wear similar faces in defeat since. But never the same raw emotion. It's a snapshot memory I've yet to forget.

Saying the race hasn't been kind to Closutton is like saying the eruption of Vesuvius wasn't good for Pompeii. Over 30 losers in more than 20 years. Last year, we ran four. Kemboy fell at the first. He has won two Grade Ones since. Pairofbrowneyes went off favourite. What happened?

Faltered He fell also, the only time in his career. Even still, Bellshill looked to have the race in his grasp before he faltered at the final fence and folded his hand. He too has won two Grade Ones subsequently. Finally, it appeared Isleofhopeandreams would scramble home through the floating debris of the race, but he was a whisker away in second come the line.

I don't like the Irish National.

My grandfather, Paddy, broke Tom Dreaper's seven-year grip on the race (imagine the uproar if Willie or Gordon did that now!) in 1967 with Vulpine. Dreaper had won it with the likes of Arkle, Flyingbolt and Fortria. Brown Lad won it three times in the 1970s, the Ronaldo to Jim Dreaper's Zidane. Desert Orchid carried top weight and Richard Dunwoody to success in 1990. But all this was before my time.

So I still don't like the Irish National.

Sixteen of the last 20 winners have carried less than 10st 9lbs. People complain about the compression of the weights in Aintree, but Fairyhouse shows exactly why it should be done. Burrows Saint has 10st 8lbs, so he is at the right end of the weights. He has a slight experience concern, with only three runs over Irish fences, but he raced twice around the Auteuil chase track in Paris before he came to us and that will stand to him. His inexperience leaves him possibly unexposed to the handicapper, a double-edged sword, and we do expect him to be better than his current mark.

Isleofhopeandreams is on the same mark, 140, as his narrow defeat last year. No 12-year-old has won since Brown Lad in '78, though. He can be a strange horse at home, awkward to ride and often not carrying you straight. He always works alone and uses his own special bridle.

But since we have paired him up with Mark Rapple, he has thrived. Mark also rides Al Boum Photo and Cadmium every morning, so he's having an extraordinary season. He played a major role in ending Willie's Gold Cup hoodoo and I won't be surprised if he is instrumental in finally breaking the Irish National curse.

Bellow Mome is worth watching, too. Not many of ours are allotted 10st, he is unexposed, but, crucially, has handicap experience. And he is improving with every run since his return from injury.

For what it's worth, he did beat General Principle (last year's winner) when he won his beginners' chase. Unfortunately, he'll probably be hit by a stray fork of lightning, from a blue sky, if he's in front near the finish.

I don't like the Irish National.

But I'd damn well love for us to win it.

Patrick's national Picks

1 Burrows Saint

2 Bellow Mome

3 Auvergnat

4 Any Second Now

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