O'Brien salutes veteran Vics Canvas as 2016 National third is retired
Vics Canvas, third in the 2016 Aintree Grand National as a 100-1 outsider, has been retired from racing aged 15, At The Races broadcaster and part-owner Gary O’Brien revealed on Wednesday.
O’Brien was famously a part of BBC Radio 5 live’s Grand National commentary when Vics Canvas made the frame behind Rule The World and was also on duty for At The Races when the horse enjoyed a big payday in the 2014 Cork National.
"Out with one horse and in with another - it’s funny the way it goes," O’Brien summarised, making reference to the win of Folsom Blue – who he also part-owns – in the €100,000 National Trial at Punchestown on Sunday.
He added: “Vics Canvas was a horse who’d been through a lot. He had one very bad fall at Cheltenham and the fact he was able to keep coming back was very special.
"When he started off he was running at the smaller tracks but winning that Cork National opened up so many doors for him. I don’t know what would have happened if he hadn’t won that day as we were thinking that we were beginning to run out of time with him before it."
Vics Canvas hadn’t run since that famous effort in the 2016 Grand National but he had been quietly building his way back towards running again for trainer Dermot McLoughlin, before connections were forced to draw stumps just a fortnight ago after the gelding suffered a minor setback.
O’Brien explained: “He picked up a little bit of a problem when he sprawled a bit on the first circuit of that Aintree National, which we now know was his last race.
“He was in training last season and was being geared up for running in the race again, but after the weights were revealed, a different problem surfaced.
“Dermot rides him every day and was happy with how he was going up until another little issue arose a couple of weeks back.
“He actually wasn’t far off a run but it just came to a stage where we had to make a call, but Dermot knows the horse inside out and felt it was best.”
Reliving the Grand National experience, O’Brien added: “I can remember I was far more nervous in the build-up to the race than I was when commentating.
“When he made a mistake at Bechers and began to drop back through the field, I remember thinking he’d maybe jump another two or three and probably pull up.
“I didn’t expect him to still be in the race for when I was commentating for the second circuit but he was more or less in the lead when he went by me second time around - I was half in shock!
“That just shows you what he was made of. He was a lovely horse and he was very tough. We're not sure what we're going to do with him now but he'll have a happy retirement, there's no doubt about that."
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