In recent years, Irish trained runners have had incredible success at the Aintree Grand National, but its association and links go much deeper than that.

In fact, it was two Irish fox-hunting gentlemen, Edmund Bake and Cornelius O’Callaghan, who coined the phrase ‘steeplechase’ back in 1752.

It only seems appropriate, given the race’s origins, that the Irish have the greatest overseas impact at the Grand National, which is run over roughly the same distance as the original country chase from St John’s Church in Buttevant to St Marys Church in Doneraile, County Cork.

Every April, the Grand National at Aintree captures the imagination of racing enthusiasts worldwide. Among the frontrunners, Irish-trained horses often dominate the scene.

This is not a mere coincidence but a testament to the excellence of Irish trainers. They consistently produce horses that excel on this challenging course.

Their success story is a blend of skill, tradition, and a deep understanding of horse racing. Here, we explore how Irish trainers have left an indelible mark on the Grand National.

First Irish Trained Winner

Irish jockeys and Irish-bred horses have always enjoyed considerable success at Aintree.

There have been 30 winners of the race trained in Ireland since the first Grand National back in 1839.

The first was Coolreagh-bred Matthew who won the race in 1847, the 10-1 joint favourite.

The next was Abd-El-Kader who became the first dual winner of the Grand National in 1850 and 1851. It then took another 24 years before The Liberator triumphed.

Trainer Henry Linde and jockey Tommy Beasley came back in force in 1881, winning again with Woodbrook, who revelled in the boggy conditions.

Modern Day Winners

More recently, jockey of L’Escargot Tommy Carberry trained 1999 Irish and English National winner Bobbyjo, who was ridden by Tommy’s son Paul.

The father-son combo quickly caught on, and in 2000, Papillon won, with Ted Walsh training and son Ruby riding his first National.

2003 saw Monty’s Pass be victorious by 12 lengths, while Ruby Walsh secured his second National victory on Hedgehunter in 2005.

Hedgehunter was also a runner-up in 2006 behind Irish-trained Numbersixvalverde, Martin Brassil’s first runner in the National.

The Irish trained runners were successful again in 2007 with Gordon Elliott’s Silver Birch, who beat McKelvey by three-quarters of a length.

And then the spell was broken. For the next eight renewals, the races were won by British trained horses including those by David Pipe, Venetia Williams, Jonjo O’Neill, Donald McCain, Paul Nicholls, Sue Smith, Richard Newland and Oliver Sherwood.

The Last 10 Years

Since 2016, there have been seven Grand Nationals (2020 was cancelled). Of those seven races, five have been won by Irish trained runners.

2016 saw the victory go to Mouse Morris’s Rule The World. Lucinda Russell from Scotland bagged the win in 2017 with One for Arthur.

She is, incidentally, the only non-Irish trainer to have won since 2016. In 2018 and 2019, the race went to Gordon Elliott’s Tiger Roll.

Henry De Bromhead trained Minella Times to a historic win in 2021, and Emmett Mullins won with Noble Yeats in 2022.

Lucinda Russell was then back again for her second win in 2023 with Corach Rambler.

Why Are Irish Horse Trainers So Good?

The dedication to excellence starts at home. Ireland has a rich equestrian culture, and this creates a fertile ground for training horses.

Irish trainers are meticulous in their preparation, and they ensure their horses are ready for the gruelling 4-mile race.

They leave no stone unturned, from physical training to mental preparation.

The journey to victory at the Grand National is rigorous and requires a unique training regimen.

Irish trainers excel in this aspect as they blend traditional methods with modern techniques.

The Irish countryside provides the perfect backdrop for this training and its varied terrain helps in conditioning the horses.

Experience is invaluable in horse racing, and Irish trainers have it in abundance. Many come from families with generations of involvement in the sport.

So when you hear names like Mullins, Walsh, and Carberry, it’s not just the trainers themselves, but a legacy that provides them with a wealth of knowledge.

They understand the nuances of the Grand National and they know how to prepare a horse for this specific race.

Why Do So Many Irish Horses Get Entered Into The Grand National?

That’s a question that British horse racing has been asking itself for years. It is the number one topic for discussion every January when the entries are revealed.

The main difference is that in Ireland, horse racing not only has a rich tradition but is a hugely important industry in the country.

It is a substantial contributor to the country’s economy, and while the exact value can fluctuate yearly, it is estimated to be worth over €1 billion annually.

This value includes the money generated through betting, breeding, racing, and the sales of horses, as well as the associated employment it provides.

In some small towns, one major trainer can be responsible for a large part of the local economy. Think employees, vets, logistics, feed, equipment, and even petrol for the transportation of so many horses around the country.

Aside from racing, the breeding industry is also a crucial component, with Ireland being the third largest breeder of thoroughbreds in the world.

They are also the largest breeder of thoroughbreds in the EU.

The sales of these Irish-bred horses contribute significantly to the economy, both domestically and through exports.

The racing sector also attracts significant revenue, with major festivals and events drawing in large crowds and considerable betting activity.

The sport supports a wide range of jobs, from trainers, jockeys, and stable staff to those in ancillary services such as catering and hospitality at racecourses.

When racing is a dominant industry in the country, it tends to run out a significant number of racehorses, and with so much money on the line at Aintree, it only makes sense that Irish trainers would capitalise and send their runners there.