TWELVE years on from a dream win with Lion Na Bearnai, local trainer Tom Gibney sent out his second BoyleSports Irish Grand National winner with Intense Raffles, who saw off the brave Any Second Now on the run in for a popular win in front of a crowd of 16,758 at Fairyhouse today.

The six-year-old was ridden to victory by JJ Slevin, also riding his second winner of the race after he won on General Principle in 2018, for owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede, for whom the horse was their first in training with Gibney, who trains just outside Trim, Co Meath.

The grey was ridden prominently, and jumped every fence well bar the fourth last. That error did not seem to effect him to unduly and Slevin soon back on the bridle heading into the straight, taking it up from Frontal Assault after the third last.

Any Second Now had his challenge delivered on the stands side and for a brief moment after the last, looked like he might be able to muster up a hair-rising finish but Intense Raffles was strong to the line to win by a length and a half. Minella Cocooner put up a huge run off top weight in third, with Frontal Assault back in fourth.

“It’s fantastic,” Gibney said. “I had huge confidence in the horse. People were asking me if I was nervous, and hand on my heart, I wasn’t nervous because we have huge confidence in the horse.

"He is the best I’ve had. You know when you ride this horse, he just gives you a better feeling than all the others and that’s the feeling I get on him nearly every day that I ride him.

“He’s only six, so who knows where he will go. It was a dream to win the race in 2012 but it’s so different to today. There was much more expectation today. When you have a horse this good. I just want to say thanks to the staff. We’re a small outfit with my family, my daughters and my wife and it’s a small local team. They’re brilliant and it’s great for them, they needed it as much as I needed it.

“Look, it’s fantastic, sure I’m getting hugs and kisses, it’s like a wedding. The Irish Grand National is such a big deal around here. I’m a Meath man, to get it is amazing, to win it twice is surreal. I’m just trying to keep up with Dermot McLoughlin, which is no easy task.”

The owners are continuing to have a fantastic run with their horses in Ireland, the majority of which are trained by Willie Mullins and on a smaller scale by Stuart Crawford. Intense Raffles was recruited from France and only ran for the first time for Gibney in January, scoring impressively at this track.

“Last February was the first time I spoke to them but fair play to the boys, it’s very easy for the big owners to go to the big yards so for them to pick out a yard like ours and give us a horse, kudos to them, it’s great to be able to repay them.

“When he won here as well as he did a few weeks ago, we started to think about the race. We were just getting to know him. It has just fallen into place, I could make out like I’m a genius but I’m not really, it’s just the way it worked out.”

Slevin was deputising in the saddle for the owners’ retained jockey Daryl Jacob, who broke his collarbone last month. Reflecting on the win, he said: “He’s only a six-year-old so it’s a massive performance for him to come and do that. He got a massive grounding in France and it’s great for Tom to be able to show what he can do with a horse like this.

“Tom is doing very well in fairness to him but horses like this are hard to come by in Ireland and it’s great that he has got one. It’s his second time winning the National so he knows what he is doing.

“These races are very hard to win and I am just delighted to get this opportunity. Look I’m thinking about Daryl at home with a broken collarbone. This is his ride and I was just glad to get the call.”

Any Second Now had been given a chance by the handicapper, down to a mark of 140, but he was trying to defy his age of 12. He ran a huge race but his trainer had to be content with another near miss in a National, following the horse’s two close placed efforts in the Aintree Grand National.

“Proud as punch,” Walsh said. “The same way I was when he was second at Aintree, and third at Aintree. Sure what can you do? It was a huge run. He ran his heart out. He’s not Brown Lad. He never was Brown Lad, but he ran a cracker.”