Home » I Am Maximus wins 2024 Grand National to secure Willie Mullins’s Gold Cup-National double

I Am Maximus wins 2024 Grand National to secure Willie Mullins’s Gold Cup-National double

I Am Maximus wins 2024 Grand National to secure Willie Mullins’s Gold Cup-National double

It was 13th time lucky for Paul Townend as he steered I Am Maximus home with an exemplary ride to put his and trainer Willie Mullins’ mark on Grand National history.

For the first time since 2002, a jockey who won the Cheltenham Gold Cup followed up by winning the big one at Aintree in the same year.

“Last year I came third [in the National], which was my best result,” said Townend. “Now this. It’s brilliant, it’s a unique race, what you grow up watching and wanting to do.”

This was a race of reduced numbers, foreshortened at the start to prevent horses arriving at the first fence overexcited. The restricted field of 34 was further reduced to 32 by two non-runners, Chambard and Run Wild Fred, to leave the smallest number of entries for a quarter of a century.

And the safety measures seemed to work: this was the first National since 2018 not to precipitate an equine fatality. Indeed there was only one faller: Corach Rambler, last year’s winner and this year’s co-favourite, which hit the turf while loose as it negotiated the second fence, having unseated 2023’s winning jockey Davy Russell at the first.

Townend was aboard the other co-favourite. Not that you would have realised that in the early stages. Riding the horse from the Willie Mullins stable, owned by the serial Irish winner JP McManus, Townend bided his time. For much of the first loop of Aintree’s course, the French horse Glengouly led the way. I Am Maximus was tucked in on the inside, keeping his pace in reserve. At the Chair on the first lap he stumbled.

“I thought he’d let Paul out over his ears,” said Mullins. “Paul told me afterwards he was only doing enough to get over the fences, and he clipped a couple of others too. It’s probably the way to do Aintree rather than big extravagant jumps that sap energy. But I admit I was worried.”

Townend, however, quickly regained control. “He made that mistake at the Chair, which slowed him down,” he explained. “I was anxious not to rush him back in.”

And indeed, even as the denouement approached, the horse was still nowhere near the front. He jumped the final fence with five horses ahead of him, then, as he took the Elbow, as the course bends round to the winning straight, he was in third place. That is when the horse applied the afterburners, easing away to a significant victory by seven and a half lengths.

“Not too many quicken up at the Elbow and hit the line,” said Townend. “We knew the engine was in there. It was a huge performance.”

One which had Mullins immediately thinking of the future.

“He’s a very quirky horse,” he said. “One day he’ll jump left, the next he’ll go right; you never know what he can do. But I think there’s more. That race showed us how good he is. The Gold Cup next year is his next objective. And he has the class to win it, this fellow.”

For Mullins himself though there are more pressing ambitions. After his hugely successful Cheltenham, this win has put him in pole position to collect the British Trainers’ Championship by delivering the most prize money of any stable across the jump racing season.

“I’d love to win the trainer’s championship,” he said. “It’s something different to do. Much as I’d like to win it, all my owners would like me to win it too.”

Were he to win the title – and after this meeting he is £40,000 ahead in the race – he would be the first Irish trainer to do so since Vincent O’Brien in 1954. It would be unwise to bet against him doing it.

I Am Maximus wins the 2024 Grand National, as it happened