A packed field takes to Fairyhouse on Easter Monday for the always-thrilling Irish Grand National. It’s a race with a colourful history dating back to 1870 and several champions have also gone on to win the English Grand National at Aintree in subsequent years.
As with the Aintree National, only one horse has been able to win this horse on three occasions. Jim Dreaper’s Brown Lad was victorious in 1975, 1976 and 1978. Tom Dreaper, father of Jim, is the race’s most successful trainer with ten wins. Included in the ten is wins with two of the best chasers of all time, Arkle in 1964 and Flyingbolt in 1966.
In 2021, Freewheelin Dylan became the longest priced winner in the history of the Irish National, coming in at 150/1 for trainer Dermot McLoughlin and jockey Ricky Doyle.
Irish Grand National Course Map (Jumps Course)
The 3m 5f Irish Grand National begins in a straight section at the end of the home straight, just after the winning post. Runners quickly join the main circuit, completing two full laps of the track, jumping a total of 22 fences.
Irish Grand National Past Winners
|2022||Lord Lariat||40/1||Dermot McLoughlin||Paddy O'Hanlon|
|2021||Freewheelin Dylan||150/1||Dermot McLoughlin||Ricky Doyle|
|2019||Burrows Saint||6/1||Willie Mullins||Ruby Walsh|
|2018||General Principle||20/1||Gordon Elliott||J J Slevin|
|2017||Our Duke||9/2||Jessica Harrington||Robbie Power|
|2016||Rogue Angel||16/1||Mouse Morris||Ger Fox|
|2015||Thunder and Roses||20/1||Sandra Hughes||Katie Walsh|
|2014||Shutthefrontdoor||8/1||Jonjo O’Neill||Barry Geraghty|
|2013||Liberty Counsel||50/1||Dot Love||Ben Dalton|
|2012||Lion Na Bearnai||33/1||Thomas Gibney||Andrew Thorton|
|2011||Organisedconfusion||12/1||Arthur Moore||Nina Carberry|
|2010||Bluesea Cracker||25/1||James Motherway||Andrew McNamara|
|2009||Niche Market||33/1||Bob Buckler||Harry Skelton|
|2008||Hear The Echo||33/1||Michael Morris||Paddy Flood|
|2007||Butler's Cabin||14/1||Jonjo O'Neill||A P McCoy|
|2006||Point Barrow||20/1||Pat Hughes||Philip Carberry|
|2005||Numbersixvalverde||9/1||Martin Brassil||Ruby Walsh|
|2004||Granit D'Estruval||33/1||Ferdy Murphy||Brian Harding|
|2003||Timbera||11/1||Dessie Hughes||Jim Culloty|
About the Irish Grand National: An Easter Treat at Fairyhouse
Aintree’s Grand National may be the single biggest jumps race of the calendar year, but it is far from the only jumping and staying marathon on offer for fans of the National Hunt game. So popular is the Merseyside showpiece, that it has spawned imitators far and wide, including close to home in Scotland, Wales and Ireland, each of whom now have an immensely popular Grand National of their own.
Of that trio, it is the Irish Grand National which is first up in the calendar year as we head to the County Meath venue of Fairyhouse for this Easter Monday spectacular. A 3m5f handicap contest open to chasers aged five years and older, the race is invariably one of the most eagerly anticipated contests of the season for racing fans on the Emerald Isle, and indeed here in the UK.
First run back in 1870, and now acting as one of the headline acts of the Fairyhouse Easter Festival, many a star performer has strutted their stuff over the 24 fences of this contest over the years, including two or the most famous horses to ever set hoof on the turf: Arkle and Desert Orchid, who won the race in 1964 and 1990 respectively.
Dreaping It in the Family
Way out on his own as the most successful trainer in the history of this great race is Tom Dreaper, the man who will forever be associated with the most talented chaser in the history of the sport. The brilliant Arkle was undoubtedly the most famous Dreaper-trained runner to come home in front here, but he wasn’t the only one, with the locally born handler landing the prize on a further nine occasions.
Dreaper certainly had the magic touch when it came to this race, and he seems to have passed some of that knowledge down to his son, Jim Dreaper, who himself trained four Irish Grand National winners over the course of his career.
Tom & Jim Dreaper’s Irish Grand National Wins
|1942||Tom Dreaper||Prince Regent||Timmy Hyde||James V. Rank|
|1949||Tom Dreaper||Shagreen||E. Newman||James V. Rank|
|1954||Tom Dreaper||Royal Approach||Pat Taaffe||Lord Bicester|
|1960||Tom Dreaper||Olympia||Toss Taaffe||Lord Donoughmore|
|1961||Tom Dreaper||Fortria||Pat Taaffe||George Ansley|
|1962||Tom Dreaper||Kerforo||Liam McLoughlin||Frank Stafford|
|1963||Tom Dreaper||Last Link||Paddy Woods||Alec Craigie|
|1964||Tom Dreaper||Arkle||Pat Taaffe||Anne, Duchess of Westminster|
|1965||Tom Dreaper||Splash||Paddy Woods||Alec Craigie|
|1966||Tom Dreaper||Flyingbolt||Pat Taaffe||T. Wilkinson|
|1974||Jim Dreaper||Colebridge||Eddie Wright||Connie Burrell|
|1975||Jim Dreaper||Brown Lad||Tommy Carberry||Connie Burrell|
|1976||Jim Dreaper||Brown Lad||Tommy Carberry||Connie Burrell|
|1978||Jim Dreaper||Brown Lad||Gerry Dowd||Connie Burrell|
It’s As Easy As 1-2-3 For Mullins
He may be the most famous name in the training game when it comes to Irish National Hunt racing, and quite rightly so given his achievements both domestically and at the Cheltenham Festival in particular, but up until 2019 Willie Mullins had never won this event.
If you are going to break your duck in a race, then you might as well do it in style, and Mullins followed that to the letter in the year in which he also landed the Cheltenham Gold Cup for the first time. Not content with training the winner, Burrows Saint, Mullins also saddled the runner up Isleofhopesanddreams, and third-placed finisher, Acapella Bourgeois. A truly fantastic achievement in one of the most competitive handicaps of the Irish season.
Irish Grand National 2019 Result
|1st||Burrows Saint||Willie Mullins||Ruby Walsh||10st 8lbs||6||6/1 F|
|2nd||Isleofhopendreams||Willie Mullins||Danny Mullins||10st 7lbs||12||20/1|
|3rd||Acapella Bourgeois||Willie Mullins||Jonathan Burke||11st 0lbs||9||18/1|
|4th||Snugsborough Benny||Liam P. Cusak||Denis O’Regan||10st 9lbs||9||14/1|
Brown Brings The House Down
No tale of the history of this great race would be complete without mention of the single most successful horse in the history of the contest: the tough, talented and genuine Brown Lad. First successful for Jim Dreaper in 1975, he returned to successfully defend his crown one year later, thus joining Scots Grey, The Gift, Little Hack II and Halston as the only two-time winners of the race.
Not content with that though, the then 12 year old Brown Lad rolled back the years to lead them all home once again in 1978, becoming the first and (as of 2022) only three-time champion.