Gordon Elliott enjoyed another landmark afternoon in his training career as General Principle gave him a first BoyleSports Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse on the same day he notched up his 200th winner of the season at Cork.
Elliott enjoyed a stellar Cheltenham Festival last month, winning no fewer than eight races, and 20-1 shot General Principle kept up the good work as he emerged best of the handler’s 13 runners in what was a dramatic renewal.
He said: “It’s unbelievable to train 200 winners in the season. It’s down to the owners and the staff I have, so I’m very lucky.”
General Principle’s Irish National victory was certainly thrilling, with Bellshill controlling the race before starting to flounder approaching the final fence.
He managed to get to the other side, but the chasing pack mowed him down and just when it looked like his fellow Willie Mullins-trained inmate Isleofhopendreams was going to claim National glory, General Principle and jockey JJ Slevin lunged late.
After a brief wait, the judge confirmed Elliott’s charge had won the day with Forever Gold and Bellshill third and fourth past the post respectively, although the latter was later demoted to fifth with the Elliott-trained Folsom Blue handed fourth place.
Elliott said: “He wasn’t one of my leading horses, but it’s great to win. He ran very well in the race last year, JJ gave him a great ride and it worked out great.
“To be honest there were that many of them coming to the last, I didn’t know where to look. I was watching Folsom Blue as he was coming home strong, but he got mowed out of it and was unlucky.
“We’ve had a rough enough week, hitting the crossbar with a good few, and to win this is brilliant.
“We’ll enjoy it. I’d really need to watch it again to have a better idea what happened.”
Slevin was grateful to have been given the leg up by Elliott in the feature contest.
He said: “I was doing my own thing, following the boys away.
“There looked to be plenty of carnage at the last fence - I think Bellshill nearly landed on it - and I was just trying to keep my horse going. He galloped away for me.
“I got a good run and got plenty of light. I left him popping away and kept saving.
“It’s unbelievable. As a young lad you dream of riding in these kind of races and to win it hasn’t really sunk in yet.
“I owe Gordon a lot. He’s a great man and I owe him an awful lot.”
Elliott later added to his fruitful afternoon as Getaway John made it winner number 201 in the closing Cawley Furniture INH Flat Race.