“THERE is no point in sleeping if you don’t dream”.
So says Mouse Morris who is still wondering when he will wake up following Rule The World’s emotional success in the Grand National at Aintree.
The shaggy-haired handler, who often sports a baseball cap at the races and is rarely without a cigarette in his hand, has long since established himself as one of Irish racing’s good guys.
Educated at Ampleforth College in North Yorkshire where lessons came a distant second to studying The Sporting Life, Morris has pretty much seen it all in the last 40 years or so, riding many a big-race winner in the 1970s before a bad fall when taking part in the 1977 Colonial Cup in South Carolina prompted him to try his hand at the training game.
It did not take him long to establish himself as a force to be reckoned with from his County Tipperary base, with the likes of dual Cheltenham Festival hero Buck House and Stayers’ Hurdle scorer Trapper John the early stable flag-bearers before War Of Attrition came along and claimed Cheltenham Gold Cup glory 10 years ago.
With Willie Mullins continuing to dominate the National Hunt landscape, and Gordon Elliott snapping at his heels, things have inevitably become a little tougher for the rest.
But Morris kept the ball rolling with the likes of First Lieutenant and China Rock, before Rule The World reduced him to tears after hitting the bullseye in the world’s most famous steeplechase.
“I don’t know if it has sunk in yet. I keep pinching myself. The whole day is all a bit of a blur still and I don’t really remember anything,” he said.
“There is no point in sleeping if you don’t dream – to win the Grand National with him was a dream come true.
“In my day (as a jockey) the fences were bigger and harder – nowadays you need a class horse to win, it is still special and quite spectacular, but they have compromised on the fences and Aintree have done a good job.
“Everybody knows about the Grand National – it is worldwide – nearly 600 million people watch it – only 60 million watched (Donald) Trump. I had letters and emails from all around the world.”
Rule The World may have been a 33-1 shot for the Aintree spectacular, but a quick scan through his form would tell you he possessed the requisite talent to make his presence felt.
The Gigginstown House Stud-owned gelding mixed it with the very best for a novice hurdler, most notably chasing home The New One in the Neptune at Cheltenham.
Having subsequently fractured his pelvis twice, it seemed as though his career would ultimately end in disappointment for, while he ran plenty of good races in defeat – including a runner-up finish in the 2015 Irish Grand National – he remained winless after his first 14 starts.
However, his status as the best maiden chaser in training was blown out of the water spectacularly on Merseyside as he galloped into the history books under then-teenage jockey David Mullins.
Despite that momentous success, Morris is still left wondering what might have been had his charge stayed injury-free.
“He had been running in Grade One races, but had been second, second and second,” said the trainer.
“He finished second in the Irish National – he was a class horse before his fractures.
“He did not reach his full potential and may have won a Gold Cup if he had.”
As Morris fought back the tears in the hallowed Aintree winner’s enclosure, there was only one person at the forefront of his mind.
The previous summer, the trainer’s son Christopher – universally known as Tiffer – died in Argentina after suffering carbon monoxide poisoning.
Morris admits it is something from which he will never fully recover, but feels training helps ease the pain.
He said: “It’s something you never get over, but the training at least gives you something else to think about.
“Without training the horses, I don’t know what I would have done.
“If something good could come out of all of this then it would be to raise awareness about the danger of carbon monoxide.
“Everyone should have an alarm, and a lot of people have had near-misses with carbon monoxide and never realised there was a problem.”