Jonjo O’Neill may have been deprived of the services of Tony McCoy, but Barry Geraghty proved a more than equal replacement for the suspended champion when landing the Irish Grand National on Shutthefrontdoor at Fairyhouse yesterday.
The 8-1 favourite, in the first colours among five runners for his owner, J P McManus, travelled well for most of the three miles and five furlongs before being driven hard on the run-in to catch Golden Wonder and score by three-quarters of a length.
The seven-year-old, who gave his jockey a first success in the race, had finished sixth in the four-mile chase at the Cheltenham Festival last month. “He had a great run at Cheltenham and after that we thought this was the race for him,” said O’Neill. “Plan B didn’t work out too badly! He will have good rest and is, hopefully, OK and we can look forward to next season.”
That campaign may well continue along a similar route to the trainer’s previous Irish National winner Butler’s Cabin, who followed his 2007 win with two fruitless attempts in the Aintree equivalent as the mount of McCoy. Shutthefrontdoor is 25-1 for next year’s renewal.
O’Neill has enjoyed a strong finish to the jumps season after Cheltenham Festival wins with More Of That, Taquin Du Seuil and Holywell, whose follow-up Aintree success propelled him to the forefront of betting for next year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup.
* Julian Wilson, for more than 30 years the BBC’s television racing correspondent, has died at the age of 73. As the lead presenter until his retirement in 1997, he was as much the corporation’s voice of racing as Sir Peter O’Sullevan, in an era that must now be regarded as a golden one.