Lion Na Bearnai roars to Irish National victory
Report: Fairyhouse, Monday
Ladbrokes Irish Grand National Chase 3m5f, 5yo+
LION NA BEARNAI gave trainer Thomas Gibney and jockey Andrew Thornton the biggest success of their careers when he sprung a big shock in the Irish National on Monday.
The 33-1 winner landed the Grade 2 Ten Up Novices' Chase at 50-1 last time out when he beat Four Commanders but proved that victory to be no fluke when he powered clear of Out Now after the last to score by four and a half lengths.
Four Commanders, sent off the 8-1 favourite, was reluctant to jump off for Davy Russell and was pulled up on the second circuit. Of the 29 runners, only nine finished.
Approaching the third-last, Out Now was moving easily under Paddy Mangan and the pair pulled clear of the field before Lion Na Bearnai dug deep to forge clear as the winning line approached.
Gibney, who has only five horses in training, said: "Everything had gone brilliantly since he won at Navan last time, things were going so well I was afraid to open my mouth.
"I started training three years ago and he was the first horse I bought, unbroken as a four-year-old.
"Andrew [Thornton] gets on really well with him and gave him a copybook ride. The syndicate that owns him are mainly from around my home area and they include a few old school friends."
Alfie Sherrin, winner of the JLT Specialty Handicap Chase at Cheltenham last month, ran another blinder to take third ahead of Paddy Pub in fourth. Leanne stayed on for fifth.
Cross Appeal, trained by Noel Meade, was prominent for the majority of the race before he made a shuddering error, which ultimately put paid to his chances. Allee Garde, ridden by Ruby Walsh, also weakened out of contention and was among 18 runners to be pulled up.
Thornton, who claims 3lb, added: "He jumped like a stag and he pricked his ears once he got to the front. But once he was headed, he battled and battled and he just wouldn't lie down."