HomeHorse RacingTom Gibney’s faith rewarded as Intense Raffles lands National lotter?????y

Tom Gibney’s faith rewarded as Intense Raffles lands National lotter?????y


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Aged just six, the French recruit really should have been too inexperienced for all the hustle and bustle that comes with the 20-runner Fairyhouse showpiece but he took it all in his stride on just his third start for the Trim handler.

JJ Slevin’s mount fended off the late flourish from Ted Walsh’s veteran 12-year-old Any Second Now (14/1) by a length and a half as Gibney enjoyed his second success in Ireland’s richest jumps race, which is worth a whopping €500,000.

Lion Na Bearnai was a 33/1 chance when scoring in 2012 but this was even sweeter as Intense Raffles justified the decision of powerful owners Simon Muinir and Isaac Souede to send this exciting grey in his direction. “He’s a fantastic horse and it’s easy to train good horses,” Gibney beamed. “Last February was the first time I spoke to them and fair play to the boys.

“It’s very easy for the big owners to go to the big yards and 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. I always had huge confidence in the horse.”

Having landed such a prestigious prize at this early stage of his career, Gibney (left) is in no doubt that Intense Raffles is “the best I’ve had” and there could be plenty more to come from him while it was redemption for the man in the saddle.

Regular jockey Daryl Jacob was unfortunate to miss the ride after breaking his collarbone last week but this was just what the doctor ordered for Slevin after unseating from Fastorslow in last month’s Cheltenham Gold Cup.

“It’s magic. I never thought these sort of things would happen to me,” Slevin said of his second Irish National triumph after also steering General Principle to success in 2018.

“I fell off a horse in the Gold Cup a few weeks ago and I let a lot of people down, I’m lucky to get the chance today. It’s a massive race to win, it’s unbelievable really. It’s just magic.”

It was also evidence of a bold premonition from Gibney becoming reality despite the lottery of a stamina-sapping 3m5f test in gruelling conditions.

“I called up to Tom during the week and he said to me, ‘I won’t tell too many people this but I think he’ll win’ and he was right!” the Wexford rider said.

Willie Mullins finished with eight winners over the three-day Easter Festival as he banged in a 98/1 treble at the Meath track yesterday through Implicit (9/2), Macdermott (5/1) and Redemption Day (2/1 joint-favourite).

This was a weekend where 14 other trainers managed to get on the score sheet, however, and there was a welcome British success when the Olly Murphy-trained Brewin’upastorm (5/1) landed the Grade Two Hurdle.

Having spent five years learning his craft under Gordon Elliott, Murphy finally realised a long-held ambition to train a winner in Ireland and he got a great kick of out watching Jack Kennedy’s mount score narrowly from Mullins’ Zarak The Brave (5/6 favourite).

“Ireland has been a brilliant place for me, I learned an awful lot off Gordon and watched Jack grow up to be the man he is today. I enjoyed that as much as any winner I’ve trained,” Murphy said.

Henry de Bromhead also got in on the act as Journey With Me (4/1) ran away with the Grade Two Chase under Darragh O’Keeffe while Gavin Cromwell maintained his scintillating season.

Bottler’secret (4/1) made it four victories in succession for the Meath trainer when landing the Grade Two Juvenile Hurdle as Keith Donoghue bagged another big winner having made the fruitful decision to go freelance this season.

Jarlath Fahey also enjoyed an important success on one of Irish racing’s biggest days when Whatcouldhavebeen (14/1) benefited from a superb steer off 5lbs claimer Aidan Kelly to land the handicap hurdle in dominant fashion.​

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