Gibney gunning for National glory with Lion Na Bearnai
Meath-based trainer Thomas Gibney believes he has Lion Na Bearnai primed to run a huge race in the Crabbie’s Grand National, and the veteran chaser is with 40/1 Coral to land the spoils.
The 12-year-old is an out and out stayer, as he proved when winning the Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse in 2012.
He jumped like a stag that day and after leading two from home dug deep when challenged after the last to pull clear and beat Out Now by 4 1/2 lengths.
The son of New Frontier then only made two appearances last season, pulling up in both the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury and the Scottish Grand National at Ayr during a campaign when Gibney’s small yard was under a cloud.
However, he has refound his sparkle this year, winning in good style at Fairyhouse on his penultimate start before finishing fourth behind subsequent Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up On His Own in the Bobbyjo Chase at the same venue.
He was ridden by Davy Russell in ther latter, and ran better than the 50 lengths he was eventually beaten suggests as he got badly squeezed between two horses coming to the fifth last and lost all momentum when hitting the fence.
The rider of this year’s Gold Cup winner Lord Windermere asked Gibney immediately after the race if he could partner him in the Grand National, and the pair schooled well at the Curragh recently where he jumped a repica Aintree fence in good style.
Gibney, who has just 10 horses in his yard, has trained him all year with Aintree in mind and reports him in tip top shape ahead of the 4m 4f contest on Saturday, April 5th.
He certainly looks fairly treated on the pick of his form with 10st 10lb to carry, and horses that have won or run in the Irish National have a good record in the race.
Both Bobbyjo (1998) and Numbersixvalverde (2006) won the Grand National after winning the Irish Grand National, while other National winners Red Marauder (2001), Papillon (2000) and Maori Venture(1987) finished 10th, second and pulled-up respectively in the Fairyhouse contest.
If successful, he will be the first 12-year-old to win the race since Amberleigh House triumphed in 2004.