Rule The World, ‘horse of iron’ wins Grand National with teen jockey David Mullins

Rule The World, ridden by 19-year-old David Mullins, showed 'what an aptly named horse' he was on Saturday in winning the Grand National.

Rule The World ridden by David Mullins runs during the Grand National on Saturday at Aintree. Jason Cairnduff / Action Images / Reuters / April 9, 2016
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Teenage jockey David Mullins won the Grand National on his first ride in the world’s toughest steeplechase, steering home longshot Rule The World with a strong finish on Saturday to write the latest chapter in his family’s horse-racing dynasty.

“What an aptly named horse,” said mud-splattered 19-year-old Mullins, who only turned professional 17 months ago.

Rule The World was third after jumping the last of the 30 fences, and outpaced The Last Samuri – the joint favourite going into the race – and Vics Canvas – an unfancied outsider – in a thrilling chase to the winning post in front of about 70,000 fans at Aintree.

Rule The World achieved his first victory in 14 races over fences in arguably the biggest of them all. Winning such a gruelling race in wet conditions was all the more the remarkable given the 9-year-old horse previously broke two pelvises that nearly ended his career.

“When you consider the injuries he has been through, you can only call him a horse of iron,” said trainer Mouse Morris, who got the biggest win of his career less than a year after his son, Christopher, died from suspected carbon monoxide poisoning while travelling in South America.

“It’s like Disneyland, fairy-tale stuff. Someone is looking down on me.”

Mullins is the nephew of leading Irish trainer Willie Mullins, and the grandson of Paddy Mullins, who is best known for training the great mare Dawn Run to a victory in the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 1986. His father, Tom, is also a trainer.

Despite his family’s links, David Mullins never really liked horse racing and only got into it at the age of 15 because he did not know what else to do: “I wasn’t the cleverest kid in the class, I was no good at any sport, and my dad was giving me a kick up the backside every Saturday morning telling me to go and do a bit.”

He barely remembered walking the Grand National course with family members as a nine-year-old, but he won’t forget his first ride on it.

Mullins followed pre-race orders in staying on the outside of the field and keeping Rule The World out of trouble, all the more important given the heavy ground that led to 23 of the starting horses falling.

Rule The World moved into contention toward the end of the second circuit of the 4 1/2-mile (7,200-metre) course and recovered from a mistake at the fourth-last. His finishing kick was too strong for Last Samuri, who had to settle for second place six lengths back.

Rule The World’s owner, Michael O’Leary, won the Cheltenham Gold Cup last month with Don Cossack but said he never expected to back that up with a winner of an even more globally recognised race. It was only his second entry for the Grand National.

“I don’t know what to feel, I’m numb,” said O’Leary, who is the CEO of Irish budget airline Ryanair.

None of the 39 starters was hurt, with the three-day festival having been marred by the death of four horses over the first two days.

Many Clouds, the 2015 winner, started as the joint-favourite with The Last Samuri and led after 17 fences, raising the chances of jockey Leighton Aspell winning an unprecedented third straight Grand National.

He ended up trailing home last of the 16 finishers.

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