Jackie and Willie Mullins celebrate at Aintree
Jackie and Willie Mullins celebrate at Aintree

Randox Grand National reaction: David Ord on the win of I Am Maximus

Our man at the track David Ord reacts to I Am Maximus' victory in the Randox Grand National.

Sitting at Aintree on Saturday evening a famous Sid Waddell quote sprang to mind.

"When Alexander of Macedonia was 33, he cried salt tears because there were no more worlds to conquer … [Eric] Bristow's only 27."

Willie Mullins is 40 years older than the legendary darts world champion but an hour and a half after I Am Maximus had provided him with a second success in the Randox Grand National he sat in the press conference, drinking water and sipping champagne, deep in thought.

Here’s a man who has built a National Hunt team of unparalleled and unimaginable strength. Who in the spring of 2024 saddled his 100th Cheltenham Festival winner, won the Gold Cup, Champion Hurdle and now Grand National.

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But with three weeks of the season left, he has indeed found a new world to conquer. He wants to be champion trainer in Britain.

He’s never achieved the feat before, and you can see why he feels this is too good an opportunity to miss.

Saturday’s win catapulted him to the top of the standings, £60,000 clear of Dan Skelton. He took the pre-emptive action last week of putting horses in the Coral Scottish Grand National and the bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown. It was only half an idea at that stage. Now it’s full steam ahead.

And the motivation is obvious. Mullins is blazing a trail and setting records that the generations that follow will barely comprehend, let alone match.

But now he’s pursuing the feat of another legendary Irish trainer, a man whose triumphs on the Flat and over jumps mean he stands alone – and by some margin – among the pantheon of the greats.

Vincent O’Brien. He was twice champion in Britain on the Flat – and twice in the winter game, the last time in the spring of 1954.

70 years later, Mullins wants to follow in those footprints. It won’t be easy. Right-hand man David Casey is already hard at work on the British programme book, looking at opportunities from Perth to Sandown, chances for the Closutton battalion to keep the scoreboard ticking over.

Latest trainers' title standings
Latest trainers' title standings

Big guns bound for Punchestown won’t be re-routed but there’s enough ammunition scattered among those County Carlow barns to keep their master in the hunt.

“I’d love to win the trainers’ championship,” he smiled, water not champagne in hand. “It’s something different to do. I’d like to do it and all my owners want me to do it and the staff do too. I’m getting as much fun having a go at it now as anyone and I’m amazed at how many people are wishing me well and asking me to have a real go.

“I didn’t start out the season to win the title. JP McManus has been after me for two or three years to have a real go at it at the start of the season, but I always think to myself, mind how things are going at home rather than spread yourself too thin.

“Travelling horses, away games as I call them, takes a lot out of horses and I don’t do much travelling at the start of the season because you might leave bigger prizes behind, but it’s nice it’s come together like it has and now, we have a real chance.

“It’s the end of the season but I think we have all our horses entered in the races we want them entered in. We’ll have a look at the smaller races around the country too but that’s where it gets more difficult.

“I find the English programme very hard to navigate. There are a lot of handicaps and that’s tough on horses, but I’ll let David Casey who plans most things to get to work on that and he’ll be working overtime over the next three weeks.”

Paul Townend has that winning feeling on I Am Maximus
Paul Townend has that winning feeling on I Am Maximus

It's a different end to a familiar season for Mullins, and Saturday’s Randox Grand National, familiar in so many ways, also felt different.

With two non-runners, 32 faced the starter and 21 completed. Four unseated their rider along the way and seven horses were pulled up.

No casualties, no fatalities, and one of the easiest winners of the great race in its rich history despite at least 14 horses looking to hold a chance going to the second last fence.

Kitty’s Light ran a magnificent race in fifth for Christian Williams and his wonderful family, David Maxwell gave a firm nod to the race’s rich Corinthian past by steering Ain't That A Shame home in sixth.

But ultimately the Grand National perfectly encapsulated the current state of the National Hunt game: Mullins beat Gordon Elliott with Henry De Bromhead third and Elliott fourth.

A familiar story indeed, but it might just be the springboard for a new one in three weeks’ time.

No salt tears will be shed at Sandown but a Mullins title would be the icing on a remarkable cake for one of the few trainers who will be mentioned in the same breath as Vincent O’Brien when the stories of our generation are told.

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