Ruby Walsh: You will not win the Irish National if you don’t have stamina

Ruby knows how to win the Irish Grand National: it's all about legs. Several of this year fancied runners are yet to prove they can go the distance...


The Irish Grand National hasn’t been a lucky race for Willie Mullins, but he has a great shot this year with Pairofbrowneyes and Bellshill.

Based on my experience and knowledge of Irish Grand Nationals, it’s incredible to see how many horses pull up during the race. There were a lot of fallers in 2004, but, in general, there’s a very low faller rate for a 30-runner race.

Last year, less than half the starters finished the race. You’d think that most of them fell, but they didn’t. They were pulled up because they couldn’t go the distance. Most years average only one or two falls, but plenty don’t finish, which tells you how stamina-sapping this race is.

Of those at the head of the field, Pairofbrowneyes looks like he can stay the trip, but he’s never actually gone this far before. His first run for us was the furthest he’d ever gone, when he won over 2m 7f at Gowran Park on attritional ground.

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His pedigree suggests he’ll stay, as does his style of racing because he’s relaxed and runs behind the bridle. He’s also a good jumper, like stablemate Bellshill. Both of these Willie Mullins horses have great chances. They will have to prove that they can stay the distance though, because you will not win the Irish National if you don’t have stamina.

Bellshill carries a penalty for winning the Bobbyjo Chase at this venue. That win was at just over 3m, so it leads you to believe he’ll handle the 3m 5f distance here. There’s no guarantee he will, but that’s probably the only concern with him.

With a genuine Grade 1 performer like Outlander at the top of the weights, it makes for a very competitive handicap.

Isleofhopeanddreams has a good racing weight and stays well. He’s was second to Folsom Blue over the Irish National distance Punchestown last time out, so he’s guaranteed to stay.

Testing ground should suit him but I still think he’ll struggle to reverse the form with Folsom Blue at the weights.

I rode Present Company in last year’s Aintree Grand National. Even though he didn’t finish the race, he still ran the Irish Grand National distance so you know he will stay the trip. He’s been a bit disappointing this year, but there’s a big run in him still.

This is a great race for novices – I’ve  won it twice (Commanche Court 2000 and Numbersixvalverde 2005) and they were both novices.

So was last year’s winner, Our Duke. Kemboy could be one to watch this year.

Of course, luck plays a big part in this this race, but Bellshill and Pairofbrowneyes have a great chance this year if they can stay.

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What do you think?