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Thursday, 13 December, 2018

Lion Na Bearnai gives his trainer and rider their day in the sun

Perennial underdog Lion Na Bearnai had a reputation for defying his odds
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Relive some of the great Irish Grand National stories in the build-up to Monday's big race . . . 

In 2012 it was a third win over fences for Lion Na Bearnai, Irish for "fill the gaps" and similarly to when he had sprung a 50-1 shock by landing the Grade 2 Ten Up Chase at Navan two months previously, he was sent off an unconsidered 33-1 chance for Ireland's richest steeplechase.

His trainer Thomas Gibney, who at the time trained just five horses near Kells in County Meath, fancied the horse for the Fairyhouse event and after the race he admitted as much but said he was afraid to champion Lion Na Bearnai's chances in the build up to the race as he feared something might go wrong.

Lion Na Bearnai and Andrew Lynch clear the last when winning the Family Fun Days At Fairyhouse Rated Chase Fairyhouse Photo: Patrick McCann 01.02.2014

Only nine of the 29 starters completed the course and Lion Na Bearnai ran out a four and a half length winner from the Edward O'Grady-trained Out Now. 

His owners, the eight-member Lock Syndicate, were from Gibney's neighbourhood and a few of them former school friends of the trainer.

The winner was the first horse Gibney – who rode successfully as an amateur – bought. He cost just €8,800 as an unbroken four-year-old, he was bought across the road from Fairyhouse at Tattersalls Ireland's sales complex.

Watch: Outsider Lion Na Bearnai wins the Irish Grand National in 2012

Lion Na Bearnai won only one race after his National triumph and, appropriately, it was at Fairyhouse in February 2014.

Now aged 16, Lion Na Bearnai is enjoying his retirement in County Meath, where he is being cared for by a couple of his owners.

Irish Grand National card

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For Tom Gibney and Andrew P Thornton Easter Monday 2012 was a day of days when they combined to achieve the biggest win of their careers
E.W. Terms
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