16 April 2024

Maximus respect for Grand National hero at homecoming parade

16 April 2024

It is likely to be the Cheltenham Gold Cup rather than a Grand National repeat that is on the agenda for I Am Maximus next season, as Willie Mullins sees his Aintree hero as the perfect candidate for the Cheltenham Festival blue riband.

It is barely a month since Galopin Des Champs enjoyed receiving the adulation of the locals after providing the master of Closutton with his fourth Gold Cup triumph and I Am Maximus appears set to be trained with the Cotswolds in mind as it was his turn to be paraded through the streets of Leighlinbridge in County Carlow on Tuesday evening.

The eight-year-old was sent off the 7-1 joint favourite for the Aintree showpiece after impressing in the Bobbyjo Chase in February and provided the perennial Irish champion with his second victory in the world’s most famous steeplechase, 19 years after he triumphed with Hedgehunter in 2005.

However, it may have to be one of his stablemates who bids to mark the 20th anniversary of that first National success with another win in Liverpool, as I Am Maximus is set to join Mullins’ swelling Gold Cup hand that includes the likes of dual winner Galopin Des Champs and high-class novice Fact To File.

“I Am Maximus is definitely a Gold Cup horse and I couldn’t see much point in going back to Aintree again,” said Mullins.

“I’ll be training him for the Gold Cup anyway.”

Mullins also gave his seal of approval to the array of alterations to the Merseyside race, which led to no fallers and the highest number of finishers since 2005 – with all of the handler’s eight-strong team leaving Aintree unscathed.

“We live in different times and nothing stays the same, everything changes,” continued Mullins.

“When you go back many years ago, the National was dead on its feet and Aintree was going to be sold and it was saved.

“You have to change and go with the present day. Today, we have a £1million National and there was a huge amount of people going to Aintree over the three days and it was special what they did – and there will be the odd tweaks and turns every now and then.”

I Am Maximus was given a masterful ride by Paul Townend, who became the first man in 94 years to win the Champion Hurdle, Cheltenham Gold Cup and Grand National in the same season.

However, the son of Authorized’s seven-and-a-half-length romp over Delta Work also put Mullins in pole position to create his own piece of history and become the first Irish-based handler since the great Vincent O’Brien in the 1950s to claim the UK jumps trainers’ championship.

The 67-year-old has got a multitude of entries for Ayr’s two-day Scottish Grand National meeting, as he attempts to beat Dan Skelton and Paul Nicholls to the title, and is set to be mob-handed in the £200,000 feature after confirming a possible six runners for the four-mile marathon.

“It’s never been an ambition because one does not have those ambitions, they are not real,” he said of his tittle bid.

“We find ourselves in this position and hopefully we will go close and I suppose now that we are so near, you want it more when you are so near.

“We’ve done lots of entries and I would say Mr Incredible will run and Macdermott will run in the big one at Ayr and hopefully we will have two or three to go with them.

“At this point in time, we’ve just got plenty of entries and we will see how the horses are during the week before we send them on their way.”

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