I Am Maximus Gives ‘Lucky Boy’ Townsend Maiden Grand National Win

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I Am Maximus added the Grand National to his Irish National win last year to give trainer Willie Mullins his second victory in the world’s greatest steeplechase at Aintree on Saturday.

Paul Townend termed himself “a lucky boy” after he steered the co-favourite to an ultimately easy win in an Irish 1-2-3 with Delta Work second and Minella Indo third.

In one of the best Nationals for years, that took place with new safety measures, 21 of the 32 runners finished with Mac Tottie being able to walk into the horse ambulance after being pulled up.

Any dreams of back to back National wins for the hotly fancied Scottish runner Corach Rambler ended early as he unseated his rider Derek Fox at the first fence.

Whilst Mullins won with Hedgehunter in 2005 it was Townend’s first taste of victory in the historic race.

For owner JP McManus, whose several grand children joined in the prize giving ceremony, it was his third victory.

“What an unbelievable race and an unbelievable horse,” said Townend, who was riding in his 13th National.

“It is a bit surreal, to be honest. I ended up being first to the first and got to the Melling Road and he backed back.

“He got careful on the second circuit but I was trying to conserve energy. I didn’t get the clearest run between the second-last and last.”

He added: “I had the ones in front of me in my sights and he responded like I thought he would.”

Townend and Mullins add the Grand National to their Cheltenham Gold Cup success with Galopin des Champs in March but for the jockey this was vastly different.

“Gold Cups and Grade Ones are special but Grand Nationals are different. You need so much luck. I am a lucky boy.”

Mullins said he had been happy with seeing Townend’s body language as he opted to take him round the inside.

“We had supreme confidence in the horse that he had a bit in the tank. He was biding his time and he delivered,” said Mullins.

“I didn’t say anything until the last fence but then I let go. I love it, I’m buzzing, it’s huge.”

Mullins also took a giant step closer to a rare feat for an Irish trained horse being crowned British champion trainer with another GBP500,000 ($620,000) in the bank.

The placed horses all played their part in a thrilling race, Mullins’s great rival Gordon Elliott’s Delta Work improved on his third from 2022 to a valiant runners-up spot.

Minella Indo also gave Rachael Blackmore and trainer Henry de Bromhead moments to dream they would add a second National to the 2021 edition with Minella Times.

Blackmore led on the 2021 Cheltenham Gold Cup champion after the last but once Townend freed himself to deliver a challenge he had nothing else to give but earned a deserved third spot.

Elliott’s Galvin finished fourth and Kitty’s Light was the first British horse home under Jack Tudor.

He may not have won but Kitty’s Light gave yet more pleasure to the family of Welsh trainer Christian Williams, whose now six-year-old daughter Betsy was diagnosed with leukaemia last year.

“I am really proud of the horse and dad!” said Betsy.

Kitty’s Light finished one place ahead of another De Bromhead runner Ain’t That A Shame, whose rider 45-year-old property developer rider David Maxwell had bought the horse specifically because he wanted to ride in the event.

Maxwell — who among many riding injuries has fractured his spine four times — gave the horse a wonderful ride amongst the professionals and his mount performed much better than last year when he was 17th and last.

Corach Rambler was not the only favoured horse to fail to deliver.

Co-favourite Limerick Lace — McManus had selected her as the pick of his five runners and backed it heavily — made several mistakes on the first circuit but battled on to be 10th.

The 2022 winner Noble Yeats laboured with top weight never looked like regaining his crown as he was at the back of the field for the whole race and finished 19th.

Two other hotly fancied Irish runners, Mahler Mission and Mr Incredible both unshipped their riders before the second circuit at The Chair.

Paul Townend on I Am Maximus on the inside went on to win the Grand National
AFP

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