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‘He’s just a good horse’ - Raffles lands intense Irish Grand National for Thomas Gibney

3 minute read

Intense Raffles made it three from three in Ireland and at Fairyhouse when landing the valuable Irish Grand National for trainer Thomas Gibney and jockey J J Slevin.

Racecourse : Fairyhouse (Ireland).
Racecourse : Fairyhouse (Ireland). Picture: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images

Twelve years on since landing the Easter Monday feature with Lion Na Bearnai, Thomas Gibney once again enjoyed Irish Grand National success courtesy of the French import Intense Raffles.

Intense Raffles had been steered to victory by Daryl Jacob on both his starts in Ireland to date, but with Jacob on the sidelines with a broken collarbone, it would be jockey J J Slevin who would benefit from his misfortune.

Barring a potentially disastrous mistake at the fourth last, the striking grey jumped superbly throughout the marathon contest and once angled out behind the longtime leader Frontal Assault, J J Slevin eased his mount to the head of affairs.

The 13/2 chance jumped the last with a healthy advantage but had to battle on gamely to deny the fast-finishing 2022 Aintree Grand National runner-up Any Second Now, who rallied up the run in to get within a length and a half crossing the line.

Minella Crooner  emerged with plenty of credit by carrying top-weight to finish third, whilst the 25/1 chance Frontal Assault fared best of the Gordon Elliott-trained runners back in fourth.

"He's a fantastic horse and it's easy to train good horses like that," said Gibney.

"Last February was the first time I spoke to them (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.

"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.

"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."

Gibney continued: "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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