BARGAIN buy Court Maid has Tom Mullins licking his lips ahead of the Irish Grand National.
Snapped up for just 1,800 euros by his son David, Mullins hopes his star mare can bruise some more big reputations at Fairyhouse.
The Irishman is no stranger to success at the top table, having won at consecutive Cheltenham Festivals with Alderwood in 2012 and 2013.
But even Mullins, 56, admits a victory in the Irish National would take some beating.
He said: “It’s always a special race, but never easy to win!
“We’ve had a few goes in recent years but Court Maid probably fits the profile better than most we’ve had here before.
“If she doesn’t run a good race we’d be disappointed, that’s for sure.
“It’s obviously a competitive race and as a novice you’d expect her to be lower down the weights, but I suppose when you look at her form you can understand.”
Mullins’ mare is one of just 15 jumps horses at his famous Doninga Stables – the yard his dad Paddy sent out four Irish National winners from.
With prices for the best horses sky-rocketing, Mullins knows how lucky he is when horses such as Court Maid come along.
He explained: “David bought her about two years ago at the sales, she was only 1800 euros. That’s a real bargain especially these days.
“Bar the top three or four stables, it’s a complete landslide down to the rest of us.
“The billionaires pick their trainer at the top and the rest of us aren’t able to get those nice horses. And you only have to look over to England, they’re starting to feel the brunt of it now.
“I’ve only about 15 horses over jumps at the moment and maybe slightly more Flat horses. They’re just too expensive for the ordinary trainers.
“The rest of us are just waiting for a horse on the side of the road to come into the stable.
“So when we get horses like Court Maid come along it’s even more rewarding you know. We’re always waiting for something special to fall off the wagon and into our yard. We might have it again now.”
A novice over fences this season, the eight-year-old has jumped up 22lbs in the ratings and cruised home by 13 lengths over the Irish National course and distance in December.
Now on a mark of 152, Mullins will use the 5lbs claim of Sean O’Keeffe to help lessen the burden.
Mullins continued: “We were always tempted for Cheltenham, but we’re a course and distance winner for a far bigger pot in Fairyhouse.
“So we’ve put all our eggs in one basket and go where we have proven form. With COVID and Brexit in the mix too we felt it was best to stay at home and go where we like the track.”
A defeat at Cheltenham’s December meeting last time out has not dampened Mullins’ enthusiasm.
He added: “We went to Cheltenham a bit soon with hindsight. But at that point we thought we’d be back there in March so we knew we had to get a run in her there to give her a go over the fences and see how she got on.
“Everything has been brilliant since, she’s in great order. We’ve had her in a few races over the last couple of months but it just didn’t work out with the ground.
“We’d never want to run her on heavy ground for her first run back in Ireland. We’re hoping we have her fit enough, I’d like to think we do but we’ll find out on Monday!”
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