Alastair Down: Raw emotions as Mouse roars to National win

Rule the world

Rule The World’s brilliant win was an emotional one for Mouse Morris

  PICTURE: Edward Whitaker (  

SOMETIMES the most unlikely numbers magically synchronise and add up to something simply sublime. And on Saturday Rule The World, zero from 13 over fences, ridden by a 19-year-old first-timer with just 16 chase wins to his name and trained by a one-off genius of 65 with a 65-a-day habit to match, landed a Grand National restorative to the soul and riveting to witness.

This was an afternoon that reinforced once again the extraordinary power that jump racing has to uplift, excite and heal the battered spirit.

There in the Aintree winner’s enclosure stood the ever unkempt, shaggy-maned figure of Mouse Morris, diminutive in stature, but towering over all. The man who brought a maiden and second-season novice to conquer a race normally reserved for the long-grizzled.

At dinner the night before attended by every available O’Leary, Mouse and I went for the third of about 17 cigarette breaks and, as we sheltered from the pouring rain, he said in that quiet way of his: “I think Bryan may have chosen the wrong one.”

We were standing on Liverpool’s Hope Street and in a sense every single owner, trainer and jockey who ever had a runner in the National walks that street the night before the big race. Usually to no avail.

But you could tell Mouse felt he could not have either Rule The World or the indomitable First Lieutenant in more rampant nick.

Mouse could not do excited if you put three million volts through him but, as he drew deep on an umpteenth Major, you sensed he knew his horses were bang right and that now it was all about gods and laps.

Mullins displays ‘the mad assurance of youth’

When First Lieutenant fell at the second, Michael O’Leary must have been looking at his phone to check for flights home. It had all the makings of one of those days.

But as the race began to acquire rhythm and shape, you could see the blue cap of Rule The World was bang up there and settled into a ludicrously easy fluency by the teenager on his back.


David Mullins put in a performance that belied his tender age of 19

  PICTURE: John Grossick (  

At 19 and with all the mad assurance of youth, David Mullins carried no baggage into the race – none of that “Oh Christ I have never won this” worry that stalked even someone as brilliant as Tony McCoy for all those years.

There were only three horses who looked like winners midway through the race – The Last Samuri, Gilgamboa and Rule The World. But the eye kept returning to that blue cap and the utterly chilled figure of Mullins – known as ‘Stud’ in the weighing room, presumably because he has expressed the wish to own one some day.

Youth is exuberant by nature and it would have been oh-so-easy for Mullins to fall into the trap of getting overexcited and making a move on sapping ground that would have cooked Rule The World.

But in an astonishing display of maturity, the youngster sat like a dowager duchess in the back of a chauffeured Bentley and waited for the race to come to him rather than make the fatal mistake of going out to grab it.

Last Samuri carried out on his shield

His orders had been “make for the outside and try to find some luck”, and while he did just that, there was paint on his left boot jumping the Canal Turn second time.

But at the fourth-last the horse made the type of clunking mistake that is usually a half-brother to terminal at that late stage of the race. But the page of Mullins’ dictionary that included the word ‘flustered’ was clearly torn out long ago and still he bided his time, eking out Rule The World’s energy like some calculating miser on a mission.

He jumped the last in third and found himself in behind the The Last Samuri and a fellow teenager in Vics Canvas. Still he hung on with that Burma Road of a run-in lying ahead of him.

Whip in his left hand, he coolly switched Rule The World out from the pair in front as they battled for mastery and it wasn’t until approaching the Elbow that he picked up and launched the kitchen sink.

Rule The World rose magnificently to the moment and, grabbing the cloying ground, powered home with relish to beat The Last Samuri by six lengths. The Samuri were famous for their swords and Kim Bailey’s horse cut and thrust magnificently and manfully throughout and was indeed carried out on his shield.

In third place the 13-year-old Vics Canvas and Robbie Dunne, another National virgin, all but stole the show. They made a mistake at Becher’s first time that would have stopped a Saturn rocket and McCoy said: “You’ll never see a better recovery.”

The Racing Post comment in running on Vics Canvas should read ‘fell sixth’. Because that is what he did. Somehow, through superglue, stubbornness and survival instinct, Dunne stayed on board.

They lost a pile of ground. To get back into a close second and still contending two from home was a masterpiece from Dunne and the stuff of heroics from his horse.

Tears of joy

David Mullins passed the post exultant and covered in the noble acne of mud-spatters that only jump jockeys acquire and wear with pride.

Awaiting him in the winner’s enclosure was his grandmother Maureen, just under seven decades his senior and struck dumb, for once, by a flood tide of excitement, pride and family feeling that she should live to see this day.

Mullins handled it all with great assurance and aplomb. He had his mum Helen on hand and also his little brother Charlie, who was in happy bits and could not work out whether to laugh or cry.

The tears won but the 19-year-old treated the young fella with a tender affection that was nothing less than a joy to behold.

RULE THE WORLD ridden by David Mullins

David Mullins’ younger brother Charlie could not hold back tears of joy

  PICTURE: John Grossick (  

Afterwards, he said tellingly: “Mouse is the best I have seen to prime a horse for a day. If it was easy everyone would be doing it.”

I have 41 years on young Mullins, but I could not have put it better myself. Morris trained Gigginstown’s first festival winner in the shape of Gold Cup winner War Of Attrition and in all my years I cannot think of a better target trainer or a man you would trust to save your life with one.

And of course this was a moment of almost eviscerating emotion for Morris.

He is a man of unusual pedigree. His father was president of the International Olympic Committee from 1972-80 and mum received an MBE for her work in Hut 6 at Bletchley Park during World War Two. War-shortening stuff.

On Saturday, Morris had his son Jamie at his side and be in no doubt that Mouse jnr has played a huge part in his father’s return from the valley of the shadow of death after Tiffer Morris’s death in early summer last year.

From the loss of a child there is no recovery. It becomes about living every day through the ever-present ache of irreversible and devastating dislocation.

Mouse is a man with the sensitivity to feel things with a razor’s sharpness and, for all his ex-jockey’s toughness, he has been to hell and is still on his way back.

And don’t forget the tower of strength that is Jamie Morris. The father has lost a son but the youngster is also missing, in every way, a brother.

There are no consolations here but the wracked endurance is something to admire. Days like Saturday compensate for nothing but they do restore a touch of faith in the idea that life is still worth the painful wrestle.

Morris the miracle worker

At the end of the day, Rule The World and his exceptional young jockey gave us a day that had about it the quality of hope and redemption.

Neither of the O’Leary brothers, Michael nor Eddie, were born – they were both quarried. But, rightly, they were not immune to the tear-duct invasive power of the moment. Michael very publicly, Eddie I suspect on the quiet when nobody was watching.

And Mouse? Well, he will go on puffing away in a major fashion and continue to produce miracles from slender resources.

Rule The World after yesterday's victory in Aintree

Mouse Morris is congratulated as Rule The World returns to Mullingar

  PICTURE: Patrick McCann (  

At the end of a momentous National weekend it is right to turn to the Beatitudes, very much some of the central words of the New Testament.

In that famous Sermon on the Mount, Christ said: “Blessed are those that mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

Let us hope that is so.


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