Lightning struck twice last year for Dermot McLoughlin and now his sights are firmly set on an unlikely hat-trick of Boyle Sports Irish Grand National titles, writes Tom Masters.
McLoughlin stunned the racing world when 150/1 shot Freewheelin’ Dylan claimed glory in the 2021 edition renewal before repeating the trick a year later with another outsider in 40/1 Lord Lariat, who raced away to a four and three-quarter length victory.
The County Meath trainer is based just 10 minutes from the track and this year he goes for his third triumph in a row, with Lord Lariat looking to go back-to-back himself, while The Echo Boy is currently priced at 100/1 – not a price to be immediately discounted based on McLoughlin’s hit rate.
Those two victories understandably ranked as two of McLoughlin’s greatest days in the sport but he is aware a lot will have to go his way in pursuit of his third triumph.
He said: “We are going to have a try and we are going to need a lot of luck again this year.
“Ground conditions are probably going to carry a stone more this time around, but he (Lord Lariat) has filled out and definitely got stronger, so we are hopeful.
“This year has gone exactly how I wanted it to go, I wouldn’t run him on winter ground, we only gave ran him a hurdles race at Leopardstown a month ago, he came out of it well, so he will be going fresh anyway.”
That race in Leopardstown saw Lord Lariat finish in seventh place, as McLoughlin won the race with Wa Wa.
Now, ahead of a trip closer to home to his preferred Fairyhouse, McLoughlin is well aware of the challenge that awaits in a crowded field.
“I think it is deeper definitely this year, but it depends on the final field, we don’t know that yet,” he added.
“Noel (Meade)’s horses are very impressive, and he wants soft ground, so it all depends on what we get on the day doesn’t it.
“There is a huge amount of luck of course, a huge amount, but I am really looking forward to it, it is my local track and on Easter Monday it is huge.”