Sunday 22 September 2019

Walsh enjoys Saintly success

Ruby Walsh after winning the Irish Grand National
Ruby Walsh after winning the Irish Grand National

Burrows Saint in yesterday's BoyleSports Irish Grand National was a 2,766th winner for Ruby Walsh, by my reckoning, and the novelty isn't wearing off for the near 40-year-old.

"Long may it last," he said to his sister Katie during his post-race interview.

A luckless run of injuries in 2018 must have been as mentally draining as they were painful, but big winners at Cheltenham, Aintree and now guiding home Willie Mullins' first Irish Grand National winner at National Hunt racing's most important stage of the season just prove that the 12-time champion jockey remains at the very top of his game.

"I've been with Willie Mullins since he offered me a job at 16 and I'm 39 now and we haven't fallen out yet. It is all about these days and long may it last," Walsh said.

Not only did Willie Mullins manage to add a first Irish Grand National to his first Cheltenham Gold Cup of last month, but the champion trainer could enjoy the closing stages knowing that, bar an absolute disaster, he was home and hosed with a 1-2-3 in the race and the fifth-placed finisher for good measure.

The trainer admitted his surprise that Walsh picked Burrows Saint when jockey arrangements were made last Friday.

"I was surprised but the horse must have given Ruby a good feel the last two days he rode him in races," Mullins said.

The jockey revealed his thinking: "When they have the experience, they tend to have too much weight.

"Commanche Court only had four runs and Our Duke only had three runs (over fences). OK, they turned out to be Gold Cup horses but Burrows Saint had two runs in France and three this season so he had more experience than the two of them and he only had 10st 8lb on his back today."

Mullins will always look back on this year with great fondness.

"It has just been one of those years where we have done things that we haven't done before," he said.

And Mullins won't be putting his feet up and resting on his laurels either. We might even see more of Burrows Saint in the near future.

He added: "A lot of my horses have been lightly raced this season so I'll be looking at Punchestown and any other opportunities I can find for them even further."

Burrows Saint was a third winner for Walsh at the Easter meeting and Golden Spread's success in the last race yesterday was a fourth for Mullins. The axis are warming up nicely for their annual assault on the Punchestown Festival.

Walsh may have stepped aside to allow Paul Townend continue his pursuit of the jockey's championship - which worked as Townend holds an insurmountable lead over Rachael Blackmore - but this weekend proved once again that this old dog can travel the hard road better than anyone. The GOAT of jump jockeys.

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