Victory in Saturday's Scottish Grand National at Ayr helped trainer Willie Mullins establish a near unassailable lead in the British jump trainers' championship which ends in a week's time.

Last Saturday Mullins moved ahead of Dan Skelton and Paul Nicholls in the title race, thanks to the success of I Am Maximus in the Grand National at Aintree.

This prompted Mullins to go all-out in a bid to win the championship and he sent 18 runners to Ayr on Saturday for Scottish National day. His team included six runners in the feature race and one of them, Macdermott, won the £200,000 race in a photo-finish. He is the first Irish-trained winner of the race since 1869.

Ridden by Danny Mullins, Macdermott was a big drifter in the betting pre-race and started at 18/1, having been close to favourite mid-week. The recent Fairyhouse winner was never far off the lead and, jumping well, led after the fourth last fence. Surrey Quest (20/1) put in a strong late challenge under Kevin Brogan and the pair were inseparable to the naked eye crossing the line. A nose was the winning margin for Macdermott.

Git Maker (8/1) was third and Klarc Kent (also trained by Mullins) was fourth.

Mullins admitted he feared the worst as the front two crossed the line, saying: “I thought we were beaten, but then one of my owners opened up the betting on his app and we were favourite and the second horse was 14-1. The odds changed a bit in their favour, but then the result came out.”

Earth Summit famously went on to claim Grand National glory at Aintree and Mullins believes Macdermott could follow in his footsteps.

He told Racing TV: “To me, the way he jumped was spectacular, I’d have no problem aiming him for Aintree next year or for the Irish National, we’ll see but we’ll be aiming for all those chases.

“He’s got age on his side, so it’s fantastic. He just got experience every day he went out; we started him off at two miles and just kept running him for experience, because he hasn’t got runs under his belt and last year it took me all season to get him fit enough.

“He’s a big, lazy fella and he just takes so much training. And he’s so laid back, but now he’s getting the hang of it and if we can get him in this sort of form, it’ll be straight to those kind of staying chases for him to run in.”

Reflecting on a dramatic race, Mullins – still riding high after Aintree glory with I Am Maximus a week ago – said: “We had one go before the first and one fall at the first, then we had two up the front and two out the back, so I said ‘well we’ve both ends of the race covered’.

“The two up front finished first and fourth and Spanish Harlem came on to be sixth, so he ran a great race and there’s going to be a good race in him too.

“The sun’s out, it’s a fantastic crowd and it’s just turned out to be an amazing day.”

The winning jockey, who is the trainer’s nephew, told ITV Racing: “An unexposed Willie Mullins novice in a staying handicap chase is what you want to be on.

“He has his jumping issues and we ended up on the deck one day in Limerick, but even the fall that day has taught him how to be efficient.

“He made a few mistakes out there today, but I got a fantastic jump at the fourth- and third-last and he was good and tough when I needed him at the back of the last.”


Earlier in the day Sharjah (7/1) gave Mullins a first winner of the day when carrying top weight to success in the Novices' Champion Handicap Chase. GIven a great ride by Paul Townend, the 11-year-old saw out the three-mile trip well to win by two and a half lengths from Stuart Crawford's Ballycoose.

Townend also shone on the Mullins-trained Chosen Witness (16/1) in a three-mile handicap hurdle later in the day, fending off the Harry Skelton-ridden Major Fortune by a nose.

The champion Irish jockey and trainer hit the target once again when Quai De Bourbon (8/11 favourite) strolled home in front in a two-and-a-half-mile novices' hurdle.

Mullins is expected to be crowned champion British jumps trainer at Sandown next Saturday, the first time the title has been won by an Irish-based trainer since Vincent O'Brien did it twice in the 1950s.