My dad only trained 25 horses, but in just a six-week period 20 years ago he won the English Grand National, the Irish National and the Punchestown Gold Cup – that was fairytale stuff.
Even now it still sends shivers down my spine when I hear the commentary from Commanche Court’s Fairyhouse win. It was an incredible period in my life and all of my family’s life.
First Papillon won at Aintree on April 8, then Commanche did the business at Fairyhouse on April 24, before following it up to win the Gold Cup at Punchestown two weeks later as well. What an amazing few weeks that was.
In his previous run before those back-to-backs wins he got brought down in the Arkle at Cheltenham. But from a mile out at the Irish Grand National, I just knew he was going to win, he was really cantering some. What an incredible little horse – he absolutely bolted in.
What an amazing time. It’s still one of the happiest times of my life.
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Dad always believed in him. He thinks you should have them sharp and make them able to travel, which in turn makes them easier to ride.
He ran Any Second Now at Naas in a two-mile chase a few weeks ago as his prep for the English Grand National. He did the same with Commanche Court back in 2000 before he went to the Irish National with that Arkle entry.
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He likes to run them over shorter distances to sharpen them up, so when they go back up to their normal distances they find it much easier.
That was always been his thought process. I think he got it from watching Tom Draper as a kid, he’d been training Arkle who would school him over a mile-and-a-half in Navan, and would say ‘it’s easy to go slow, the key is to make them do it quick’.
And that was something that has resonated with my dad ever since.