No matter the Grand National in question (English, Welsh, Scottish or Irish), the occasion always brings out the very best in racing talent. The Irish Grand National certainly adheres to that criteria and is steeped in history, first taking place way back in 1870 where the race was won by a horse named Sir Robert Peel. Interestingly, and unlike the Welsh and Scottish Grand Nationals, the location of the 1870 race is the same as its location today, Fairyhouse, Co’ Meath, Ireland.
The distance of the Grade A Irish Grand National handicap race is 3 miles 5 furlongs (upped from 3 miles 4 furlongs in 1990) and there are 24 fences to clear. The race, which is for 5 year old horses and older, takes place on Easter Sunday each year and is part of the Fairyhouse’s Easter Festival. It’s a popular event with racegoers, including those from Dublin who attend as part of the ‘Dub’s Day Out’ tradition.
As is the case with the Welsh and Scottish Grand National races, success in the Irish event can often mean good things for a horses prospects elsewhere. While none taking part have ‘done the double’ by winning the Irish Grand National and the Aintree Grand National in the same year, a few have still won both events. Ascetic’s Silver was the first in 1906, and Rhyme ‘n’ Reason, Bobbyjo and Numbersixvalverde in more recent times.
Leading jockey over the years in the Irish National is Pat Taafe with 6 wins between 1954 and 1966, leading horse Brown Lad with 3 wins in the 70s, and leading trainer Tom Dreaper with a staggering 10 wins from 1942 to 1966.
2018’s winner was General Principle with jockey James Slevin on board, and trained by George Elliot. It was George Elliot’s first Irish Grand National Victory, narrowly beating out rival Willie Mullin’s Bellshill by a head. Prize money for the event was a very healthy €500,000 , with €270,000 of that going to the winner, so not a bad day’s work.