JP McManus dreams of another magic moment as Limerick Lace seeks to become the first female horse to win the Grand National since 1951

  • Limerick Lace’s profile makes her the special one in Grand National line-up
  • Sir Anthony McCoy partnered Don’t Push It to a memorable success in 2010
  • Rachael Blackmore became first female rider to win in 2021 on Minella Times

Time marches on but the feelings never change. JP McManus is no stranger to success in the world’s greatest race but his dreams of conquering Aintree remain as fierce as they were as a child.

McManus recalls fondly the days in Limerick, as a boy, when he would go to South Liberties GAA Club and have a punt on the Aintree spectacular. He has gone on to become the most famous owner of National Hunt horses in the business, his green-and-gold silks sweeping all before them.

His two National victories were moments in time for this sport. Sir Anthony McCoy fulfilled a life’s ambition when he partnered Don’t Push It to success in 2010, while Rachael Blackmore’s triumph on Minella Times in 2021 was boundary shattering in its importance.

Blackmore became the first female rider to win the National and on Saturday McManus can see his colours carried to victory by the first female horse since 1951 in the form of Limerick Lace, a progressive seven-year-old mare who has much in her favour.

It is clear that McManus thinks the same. We spoke at Aintree on what was a fantastic Friday, as he celebrated a trio of Grade Ones provided by Inothewayurthinkin — Limerick Lace’s big brother — Mystical Power and Jonbon.

Limerick Lace’s profile makes her the special one in the Grand National line-up on Saturday

Limerick Lace’s profile makes her the special one in the Grand National line-up on Saturday

With a twinkle in his eye, McManus confided he had had a financial interest in Limerick Lace, who is trained by the shrewd Gavin Cromwell; such a revelation can send shockwaves through the betting markets. If The Sundance Kid, as he was once called, puts his money down, you take note.

‘Days like these are very special,’ McManus said. ‘You have to celebrate them, enjoy them. But I don’t think there is any race like the National. When I was a little boy, we always had a bet on the National, no matter how old — or young ! — you were.

‘We’d go in the local hurling club in the parish and everyone knew who won the Grand National. I’ve seen most of the Grand Nationals since 1976 when Rag Trade won. I maybe have missed one in the years since, along with the year with Covid.

‘It is an unbelievable race. It’s the hype. You are thinking about it from 12 months before, wondering whether you might have a horse good enough to run in it. We’ve got five darts at it — but one real one, I hope! I’ve had a little on Limerick Lace at 25-1. That was a big price.’

Then came a significant little aside from McManus, who will also see Capodanno, Janidil, Meetingofthewaters and I Am Maximus head to the start for him. ‘But if my life depended on it, I would go for I Am Maximus,’ he said. ‘Willie (Mullins, his trainer) said to me one day that we would try to win the National — and then the Cheltenham Gold Cup!’

I Am Maximus certainly has outstanding claims. This observer was at the final fence at Fairyhouse in December when the gelding won the Drinmore Novice Chase and it was clear to see that the further he goes, the better he will be. He already has an Irish Grand National on his c.v., too.

There is no question I Am Maximus will be in the shake-up — do not rule out a McManus 1-2-3 with Meetingofthewaters, who carried huge confidence from the Mullins stable going into the Cheltenham Festival and ran well to be third in the Ultima Chase.

But there is something about Limerick Lace’s profile that makes her the special one. She showed terrific class when winning the Mares Chase at Cheltenham 29 days ago.

She has speed but also stamina — look at what Inothewayurthinkin did yesterday in the Mildmay Chase — and everything points to her becoming the first mare since Nickel Coin in 1951 to deliver for the fairer sex.

Though McManus got the value at 25-1, Limerick Lace will still be an attractive price. For the race in which everyone has an opinion, it is vital that you keep her on your side.

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