HomeHorse RacingIntense Raffles storms to Irish Grand National glory

Intense Raffles storms to Irish Grand National glory

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JJ Slevin claimed his second Irish Grand National triumph as Intense Raffles held off Any Second Now to triumph at Fairyhouse.

Slevin, who won on General Principle in 2018, won on the only six-year-old in the line-up to give Tom Gibney his second win as trainer following 2012’s surprise success for Lion Na Bearnai.

Gibney struck gold again courtesy of the Simon Munir and Isaac Souede-owned French import, who has excelled at Fairyhouse in two starts since his transfer from the continent.

Those victories came in the hands of the currently-injured Daryl Jacob, and Jacob’s misfortune was J J Slevin’s gain as he stepped in to register his second victory in the Easter Monday showpiece aboard the gutsy grey, who showed his star quality with a brilliant round of jumping.

Always travelling powerfully in the hands of Slevin as he tracked the pace set by Frontal Assault, not even a mistake at four out could halt Intense Raffles’ momentum as the six-year-old eased effortlessly to the head of proceedings.

Keen to hold on as long as possible, Slevin waited until after two out to edge the 13-2 scorer’s nose in front and after jumping the last with a narrow advantage he plugged on gamely to the line as Ted Walsh’s veteran and Willie Mullins’ Minella Cocooner were bearing down with every stride.

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“He’s a fantastic horse and it’s easy to train good horses like that,” said Gibney, pictured above (L) with Slevin and the horse.

“Last February was the first time I spoke to them (Munir and Souede) and fair play to the boys.

“It’s very easy for the big owners to go to the big yards, so for them to pick out a small stable like us and give us a horse, kudos to them. That takes a bit of doing and it’s great to repay them.

“When he won here the last time we were just getting to know him and it’s just fallen into place. I could make out like I’m a genius but I’m not really, it’s just the way it worked out – it worked out well.

“I had huge confidence in the horse. People were asking me if I was nervous and hand on my heart I wasn’t because we had huge confidence in him. He’s the best I’ve had.

“He’s just a good horse, when you ride a good horse you just get a feeling that this horse is so much better than the others. That’s the feeling I get on him nearly every day I ride him.

“He’s only six so who knows where he’ll go. It was a dream to win it in 2012, it was so different to today as there was so much expectation today and pressure.”

He added: “I want to say thanks to the staff, it’s a small outfit with my family, my daughters, my wife and a small local team. They are brilliant and it’s great for them, they need it as much as I need it.

“I’m getting hugs and kisses, it feels like a wedding! I’m a Meath man and to win it twice is surreal.

“The two lads (Munir and Souede) are on planes, they were hoping to watch it so I hope they did see it.”

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