knows best for JJ
Slevin is closing in on celebrating the first anniversary of winning the
Boylesports Irish Grand National on General Principle and one assumes that he
will buy his mother Liz another thank you present to mark the occasion.
sister of legendary trainer Aidan O’Brien, Liz is married to Shay, who trains
point-to-pointers and also stands El Salvador for stallion duties at Killack
Stud. Shay provided his son with his first winner, and JJ garnered Grade 3
success early in his career on Moylisha Tim for Richie Rath but the
opportunities dried up and he was struggling for rides even on the
the end, Liz filled in application forms for a professional licence and thrust
them in front of JJ, requiring only his signature. By then, he had a journalism
degree and was considering going down that route. Just a matter of months after
turning pro, he was riding a Cheltenham Festival winner on Champagne Classic.
has enjoyed a fruitful partnership with his first cousin Joseph O’Brien and
they combined for what was a maiden Grade 1 for them both courtesy of Tower
Bridge at the inaugural Dublin Racing Festival.
injury after the Irish Grand National heroics halted the momentum temporarily
but Slevin got back in the swing of things and totted up Cheltenham triumph
number two with Band Of Outlaws las March.
an unsuccessful tilt at the Aintree National, Slevin and General Principle will
aim to join elite company as two-in-a-row winners of the Fairyhouse feature.
Not since 1976, when Brown Lad prevailed, has a horse retained primacy.
king Nolan chasing cherry on top
Nolan’s resurgence has been one of the really heartwarming stories of the
National Hunt season. Just two years ago, the former All-Ireland-winning
Wexford hurler hit the nadir of five winners and was contemplating a very bleak
was an amazing dip in fortunes for a trainer with an all-time high of 38
winners and a healthy catalogue of big-race success that includes two
Cheltenham Festival victories, seven Grade 1s and a host of prestigious
Accordion Etoile, French Accordion, Cloone Rover, Alpha Ridge, Shinrock Paddy,
Dabiroun, Noble Prince and Defy Logic are just some of the talented former
residents of Toberona Stables.
owned jointly by Thomas Friel and Andrew Gemmell, owner of Stayers’ Hurdle hero
Paisley Park, has already proven himself a talented operator who was a gutsy
second at Cheltenham last March in the National Hunt Chase. He would require an
ease in the ground to take his chance however and as a six-year-old, is not one
Nolan will be taking any risks with.
is far more experienced although only a year older. He has been very
consistent, only finishing outside the first four once in his last 10 races. If
Nolan bags an Irish Grand National, it will turn a memorable year into one of
a big chance for Cusack
Cusack is sure to be looking forward to taking on the Gordon Elliott and Willie
Mullins battalions with Snugsborough Benny, who is coming into the Irish Grand
National in good heart following his win in a rated chase at Fairyhouse in February.
came over two miles and seven furlongs, as did the Galway Blazers’ Handicap
Chase triumph last August but Cusack is optimistic that the extra six furlongs
will not be a problem for his stable star, particularly with the ground
unlikely to be any slower than the good to yielding he enjoyed around
Fairyhouse last time out.
handler Cusack was a hard-working jockey, who enjoyed big-race success on the
likes of Master Aristocrat, and enjoyed a notable association with the Jim
Bolger-trained Chirkpar. Since swapping riding for training, he has saddled the
likes of Lasoscar, Who’s That, The Bog War and Last Time D’Albain to
Benny would truly be a romantic winner, as he is owned by his breeder, Ray
Loughnane from Shinrone. Prior to Benny, Loughnane has mostly owned
point-to-pointers but the Shinrone man is now dreaming of landing a slice of
the €500,000 prize fund on offer, with €5,000 on offer to the 10th-place
if you’re dreaming, dream big and Loughnane must surely have thought about the
€275,000 that goes to the owner of the first past the post.
that would be something.