Friday, May 24, 2024

Intense Raffles gallops through mud to land thrilling Irish Grand National

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Intense Raffles continued his Fairyhouse love affair to hold off the fast-finishing Any Second Now in a thrilling renewal of the Irish Grand National. Twelve years on from winning the race with Lion Na Bearnai, Thomas 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 his misfortune was JJ Slevin’s gain as he stepped in to also 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.

Slevin said: “My lad jumped great – he was a bit long at the last and was getting a bit tired and lonely but he battled all the way to the line. These races are hard to win and I’m delighted to get the opportunity – it’s a shame for Daryl who is at home with a broken collarbone.”

Gibney added: “He’s a fantastic horse and it’s easy to train good horses like that. Last February was the first time I spoke to them [the owners 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.

Intense Raffles and JJ Slevin (left) on their way to winning the Irish Grand National. Photograph: Seb Daly/Sportsfile/Getty Images

“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.

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Quick Guide

Greg Wood’s Friday racing tips


Wetherby 1.15 Roger 1.50 Followango 2.20 Choosethenews 2.50 Santos Blue 3.20 Felton Bellevue 3.55 Dexperado

Fontwell 1.40 Pipers Cross 2.10 River Tyne 2.40 Yalla Habibi 3.10 Joe Cotton 3.45 Johnny Jump Up. 4.20 Privatory

Lingfield 2.00 Largo Bay 2.30 Viennoise 3.00 Purefoy 3.30 Falmouth Boy 4.05 Arthur’s Realm (nap) 4.40 Nordic Glory 5.15 Gogo Yubari 

Musselburgh 4.30 Speed Davis 5.05 Could Be Trouble 5.40 Latin Verse 6.10 Call Me Harry (nb) 6.40 Mack The Man 7.10 Isholo Du Vivien 7.40 Reflection Of You 

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“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.”

Quick Guide

Greg Wood’s Saturday racing tips


Kempton 1.30 Auric 2.05 Choisya 2.40 Old Harrovian (nb) 3.15 Duty Of Care (nap) 3.45 Devoted Queen 4.25 Native Warrior 4.55 Knebworth 

Uttoxeter 1.40 Yellow Jacket 2.15 Livin On Luco 2.45 Majestic Jameela 3.20 Happy And Fine 3.55 Glance From Clover 4.30 Kruger Park 5.00 Kalize

Chelmsford 2.50 Frankfreya 3.30 Capulet 4.05 Ayyab 4.40 Capo Vaticano 5.15 Legacy Power 5.45 Freetodream 6.15 Profitman 

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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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