good gord; national review General Principle gets up late to seal a dramatic victory and give trainer Elliott his first National victory.
Byline: peter o'hehir
BY peter o'hehir GENERAL PRINCIPLE got up in the dying strides of a gruelling test to give Gordon Elliott a first Boylesports Irish Grand National in Fairyhouse.
The 20/1 shot, above, a fourth winner of the race for Gigginstown House Stud, landed in fifth position at the final fence and, after Isleofhopendreams edged past gallant front-running stable-companion Bellshill and looked the likely winner, JJ Slevin summoned a late surge from General Principle to collar his Willie Mullinstrained rival and beat him by a head. A length and a half covered the first five home in a race which saw just eight of the 30 runners complete the course.
Locally-trained Forever Gold finished a close third, a half-length off the runner-up with Bellshill fourth and the Elliott-trained Folsom Blue a very unlucky fifth.
Folsom Blue was brought to a virtual standstill at the last, when Bellshill, tiring, jumped left, badly hampering Arkwrisht and Folsom Blue, which rallied for Robbie Power and finished best of all. In a subsequent Stewards Enquiry, the placings of the fourth (Bellshill and fifth Folsom Blue) were reversed.
en y General Principle's success was the biggest in the career of JJ Slevin (25), a nephew of Aidan O'Brien and first cousin of Joseph, who also wore the Gigginstown colours to victory in the Martin Pipe at last year's Cheltenham Festival. He picked up a sevenday whip ban here, while Danny Mullins, rider of the runner-up, was banned for three days.
f s And it provided Elliott with Irish Grand National compensation after a couple of seconds with Bless tl-s The Wings.
It also gave Elliott a welcome boost in his bid to dethrone Mullins as champion trainer as the nine-year-old bagged a winner's prize of [euro]270,000 compared to the [euro]100,000 earned by Mullins with Isleofhopendreams.
Elliott later became the first trainer to saddle 200 winners in an Irish National Hunt season, when Portnablagh won the mares bumper in Cork, before Getaway John made all under Jamie Codd to land the Fairyhouse bumper, a race won in the past by such Elliott-trained stars as Don Cossack and Samcro.
The jubilant trainer said: "It's brilliant, unbelievable. This is our local track and the Irish National is a race I've always wanted to win.
"We ran 13 and General Principle wasn't one of my leading candidates. He ran a cracker in the race last year ( fifth to Our Duke) but had lost his way a bit this season. But he stayed going. And J J gave him a great ride."
He added: "I didn't know which horse to watch, but Folsom Blue looked very unlucky at the last. It's been a rough enough week and we were under a bit of pressure, but this is brilliant."
The Mullins-trained Pairofbrowneyes (Paul Townend) was sent off 13/2 favourite but crashed out of the race at the fifth while the other Mullins' runner Kemboy (Bryan Cooper) fell at the first.
national treasures Gordon Elliott & JJ Slevin celebrate yesterday