Trainer Emmet Mullins revealed that Noble Yeats will attempt to become the second dual winner of the Randox Grand National this century, with the Aintree spectacular on Saturday 15th April a definite aim.
Mullins is hoping his stable star can emulate the heroics of Tiger Roll in 2018 in 2019 and says he “cannot see any reason why we shouldn’t fancy our chances once again”.
The now eight year old sprung a 50-1 surprise when successful in the 2022 renewal of the world’s greatest steeplechase, handing jockey Sam Waley-Cohen an amazing victory on his final ever ride.
Noble Yeats has returned in rude health this season with two victories in three outings. After a Listed victory at Wexford in October, the son of Yeats returned to Aintree for an impressive three and a quarter length victory in the Grade Two Boylesports Many Clouds on the Mildmay Course at the start of December.
A visit to Lingfield Park for the Fleur de Lys Chase later this month is next on the agenda, followed by the Blue Riband of chasing – the Grade One Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup on March 17th – with Mullins insisting: “We haven’t found the ceiling for him yet.”
Speaking at a media event organised by The Jockey Club today at his yard in his Bagenalstown, County Carlow, Mullins said: “We are definitely aiming at the Randox Grand National once again.
“After his performance in the Many Clouds last time he won’t be too well looked after in the weights but with a horse like him he grows in that scenario and I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t fancy our chances once again.
“The Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup is a stayers’ race and I would compare him to something like Hedgehunter who won a National and was second in a Gold Cup afterwards. Hopefully he’ll take his chance in the Gold Cup.”
Only two horses in history have won both the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Grand National. Golden Miller completed the double in 1934 while L’Escargot scored at Cheltenham in 1970 and 1971 before famously pushing Red Rum into second place when successful in the 1975 Grand National.
Mullins continued: “The Gold Cup was on the radar this year from the get-go. I hadn’t realised until I heard on a programme over the weekend that only two horses have won the Gold Cup and Grand National in the past. Luckily for me and the horse that won’t register with us!”
Reflecting on Noble Yeats’ Randox Grand National success of last year, when he defeated 15-2 Favourite Any Second Now by two and a quarter lengths, Mullins said: “It is many months later now and honestly it hasn’t really sunk in. This is a big eye-opener this morning with a crowd here at the yard for the first ever time. It definitely hasn’t sunk it and I would say it will be a bit longer.
“It was a long preparation (for Aintree). We had it planned from a long way out to target the Grand National and everything went to plan. I suppose at the time of the weights he was one of the fancied horses at the prices.
“When he ran (finishing ninth in the Ultima Handicap Chase) at Cheltenham it was Sam’s first ride on him and while everything didn’t go to plan it might have been the making of the horse being in a big-field handicap chase at Cheltenham. His price drifted on the back of that which made him go under the radar but we never lost hope or confidence. I remember I explained to Sam the night before the race that if I had the last two weeks back then there was nothing I would have changed as everything had gone to plan – it was all very straightforward.”
When winning the Randox Grand National as a seven year old, Noble Yeats became the first winner from that age group since Bogskar way back in 1940 but this was something Mullins had not been bothered about.
He continued: “Up to the week of the race, I was unaware of the trends and statistics but I never had any worries about his jumping or experience. He came from the point to point field and finished second first time out before we bought him. He is shrewd, smart and economical with his jumping – not exuberant or anything like that but great at getting from A to B.
“We bought him at the December Sale (in 2019) and it was 12 months before we ran him. He had been working here and not showing much within those 12 month but you could see he was a dour stayer. We brought him away on grass and he seemed to grow and improve. He always looked like a horse that a fence and a trip would bring the best out of him.
“We had a few prospective buyers after he won his bumper in Thurles 16 months before the National and I explained to everyone at the time that I thought he would be a top handicap chaser for the next season – if he will progress and become a Grade One horse I am not so sure but he will definitely be a top handicapper. So far, we haven’t found the ceiling for him yet.”
Reflecting on the race itself, Mullins said: “I watched the race on the right-hand side of the tunnel facing out on to the track. I was completely on my own and that was plan A for me – I was happy! I am fairly sure looking back on it that I was watching the wrong horse for the first part of the race down to the Canal Turn and I still wasn’t that impressed when I saw where he actually was.
“By the time he got to the Water Jump, passing in front of me and heading out on the second circuit I thought he was in position A – winners of Nationals all come this little pocket in the field and that was the first blow I took – I am not sure about the horse but I just had to take a breath to gather my thoughts and myself together.
“From then on it was just plain sailing – he jumped brilliant. At Valentine’s or the one after he had a little peck but honestly that was the only worry in the whole race. Sam was brilliant on him – to be able to get the horse in his comfort zone and travelling and the confidence to sit and wait crossing the Melling Road to fill him up … the rest is history.
“I can remember my reaction as he passed the line and thankfully no one saw it, so I’m happy! I then gathered myself together and came back down to the parade ring and everyone was celebrating – I just hid in behind patiently and waited for the horse to come back in.”
Mullins purchased Noble Yeats for £75,000 at Tattersalls Cheltenham Sale in December 2019 for owner Paul Byrne and he was sold privately to the Waley-Cohen family after chasing home Ahoy Senor in the Grade Two Towton Novices’ Chase at Wetherby in February last year.
Mullins continued: “The Waley-Cohens bought him just before the weights came out. They had seen him run in Wetherby as I think they had a runner on the day. He was second to Ahoy Senor that day and Anthony Bromley put it to them, as they were looking for a Grand National horse, that he ticked a lot of boxes.
“It was great they put their trust and faith in me. I had no idea it was going to be Sam’s last ride and thankfully the horse put it all together. Paul Byrne (Noble Yeats’ previous owner) was delighted in the aftermath of the race and I have a picture of the two of us smiling – I said he deserves an Oscar for the smile he is putting on! Paul is genuine and looking back in time he might have some regrets but I wouldn’t say it has really sunk in for any of us yet.
“It was a real whirlwind after the race with all the attention and something I hadn’t experienced before. When we got home it was unbelievable. I hadn’t really told anyone about the homecoming for the horse but word seemed to get around and I couldn’t believe the turnout so that was a big moment.”
Emmet Mullins is the son of George Mullins, who runs a horse transport business, making him the nephew of Willie Mullins – Ireland’s multiple champion Jump trainer and the most successful trainer ever at The Cheltenham Festival. Mullins’ yard is next to his uncle’s with the pair sharing the gallops.
With leading trainers and jockeys throughout his family, Mullins is thankful for all the support he has received.
He concluded: “There is no doubt in saying that every one of the Mullins family is different and I’ve definitely taken something from everyone. You take nuggets and pieces and put it together in your own little jigsaw to make it work for you.”