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Press Release 13th April 2024 Aintree

Winning jockey Paul Townend said: "It was an unbelievable race and he's an unbelievable horse. Its a bit surreal to be honest. I ended up actually being first down to the first to give him a look but when I got to the Melling Road he started backing off it so it was not a great start.

“The volume of horses just pushed me down over the first three and he got a little careful on the second circuit, but I was trying to conserve as much as I could as well.

"We didn't get the clearest run from the second last to the last, but it kind of helped me and I felt that when I got him out he was going to start motoring when he got into clear air, which he did. The ones in front of me, I'm sure they weren't looking for me, but I had them well in my sights and I was hoping he'd respond as I thought he would. The Gold Cup is the Gold Cup and Grade 1s are hard to win, but Grand Nationals are a bit different and you need so much luck. I can't believe it. I'm a lucky boy.

“It’s what every young boy with a pony wants to do.”

Winning trainer Willie Mullins said: “I could see all the time that Paul was happy with where he was, just looking for room, looking for daylight, and he eventually got it and set him alight. He made little of his mark, and that means he's going to be a Gold Cup horse.

“It's extraordinary how we came to have him. Nicky Henderson had him after Henrietta Knight bought him for Mike Grech. When Mike moved his horses to Ireland Nicky said make sure you get that horse, and so thanks to Nicky and thanks to Henrietta, who organised all of that. That's why we are here today.

“At home he's just another horse. He never shows me on the gallop that he's a champion. Rachael rides him and he's an easy enough horse to ride. He's nearly a stable pet. If you sae him out in the field you wouldn't pass any remark, but he's obviously got an engine. 

“When you win a Bobbyjo like that, that's obviously one of the best trials for the National and he just ran away with it, which was just extraordinary. That's when I started to really think we had a real live chance.

“Paul is just riding so well at the moment. He's just riding with such confidence, and like any sportsman with such confidence, things just happen for you. The ball bounces the right way and Paul is just seeing things that other jockeys aren't seeing at the moment.

It's right up there. It puts us right u there with a chance of an English title and it's another National for JP. What more could you ask for.

“The first National we won I was on cloud nine for the whole year until they passed the post the following year, and so hopefully it will be like that again this year. Winning the National is just special. It's the first race we all see on TV and Aintree, with the spectacle and the atmosphere, just makes it a special race to win." 

Mullins went on to say: “That was an excellent ride. “As I said before the race, we don’t know how good this horse is. Today he showed us that he’s better than he has been, anyway. I think he was still just a little bit ahead of the handicapper after what he did in the Bobbyjo Chase and he proved it today. Paul gave him an excellent ride, just coddled him round the inside, got chopped off once or twice, probably didn’t jump as clean as you’d hope, but you could see Paul just looking for the gaps between the last two fences, just looking for some clear air. He eventually got it and set him alight. Tremendous horse.

“He’s quirky, he’s immature, but he’s learning all the time. Nicky Henderson had him before me - he said to me to make sure I got him because Mike Grech was taking all his horses to Ireland, and he said that’s the horse I need to have. I put my hand up for him with Henrietta Knight. Nicky could see the talent the horse had, he knew he was quirky, and we just had to nurture that talent. An Irish National, an English National - what more do you want?

“He doesn’t do it on the gallops at home, he does his own thing. He’s quirky, but he has huge ability, and until other horses just get that out of him, we won’t know how good he is, but I think he could be a Gold Cup horse.

“We’re there with a chance now for the British trainers’ title, so we’ll have to give it a good go now, and we might see you at Sandown,  Perth, Ayr - where else?!

“At home he’s just another horse. He never shows me on the gallops he’s a champion. Rachel rides him - he’s an easy enough horse to ride, he’s nearly the stable pet for Rachel. He’s unremarkable - if you saw him in the field you wouldn’t pass any remark, but he’s obviously got an engine.

“When you can win a Bobbyjo Chase like that - and that’s probably one of the best trials for the National - that’s when I started to really think we had a real-life chance.

“Paul is riding so well at the moment. He’s just riding with such confidence, and it’s like any sportsperson, when you’ve got that confidence things just happen for you. You make them happen, too, but the ball just bounces right next to you and bounces the right way. Paul’s seeing things other jockeys aren’t seeing at the moment - he’s just riding in a different zone.

“This puts us right up for a chance at the  British title, another big win, another big one for JP - what more could you ask for? After Hedgehunter won I was on cloud nine for the whole year until after the winning post the following year, so hopefully I’ll be like that this year!

“The National is a special race. It’s the first race we all see on TV, and Aintree is such a spectacle, with all the atmosphere to it. It’s just a special race to win.”

JP McManus, the winning owner said: “I don’t have to say anything about the trainer - it has all been said already, and if it isn’t said, people know it. He’s patient - he’s everything you could ask for in a trainer. He delivers.

“I love everything about the race. I love Liverpool, the excitement of coming here, the build-up to the race. It’s just a very special place among very special people.”


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