Cousin Pascal, who had started the season point-to-point with Daniel Murphy, ran out a 66/1 winner of the Rose Paterson Randox Aintree Foxhunters on Thursday afternoon completing an ambition for trainer Joe O’Shea to win a race over the iconic Grand National fences since sneaking in to Aintree as a boy to watch the race in 1976.
O’Shea, whose yard is just an hour from the track, was a teenager when watching Rag Trade win the world’s greatest steeplechase 45 years ago and vowed that day he would one day saddle a winner on the famous course.
The nine-year-old ultimately got the better of Latenightpass with Cat Tiger back in third.
After Cousin Pascal and jockey James King helped turn that dream into a reality by winning the 2m 5f contest, O’Shea said: “We are local - we’re based in Nantwich, Cheshire. I’m a Manchester boy, really; moved out to the countryside.
“My dream, ever since I sneaked in to watch Rag Trade win the 1976 National, I’d just left school - I said, ‘I’m going to train a winner over these National fences. I didn’t want a [training] licence, never interested me, I’m happy with what I’m doing, training the pointers.
“But I’ve come so close in this race. Cottage Oak was going well and finished fifth and Lilbitluso met with an accident when he was going very well at the Canal Turn two years ago.
“I must admit, this horse has improved so much since he came - I’ve never seen a horse improve so much in my life. He came from Ireland, the cheapest horse I’ve ever been associated with - we’d spend more on champagne in a weekend than what he cost.
“I think the bill for getting him vetted was more than he cost! But he’s never stopped improving and then the other day, this time last week, I worked him with a maiden of mine we do think a lot of, and the maiden beat him.
“I was scratching my head - I thought either the maiden was something special, or we’ve got a problem. The maiden came out and won his maiden on the bridle, so I knew everything was fine for today. I backed him and backed him, and every time I backed him - a bit like the Irish National winner - every time I backed him he went out, so I backed him again. We’ll do well out of the job.
“When I spoke to the owner before I threw the jockey on, I said, ‘let’s enjoy today, this could be a bit fast for him, but we’ll come back next year and we’ll do the job proper’, because I thought he’d lack early pace.
“All he does is stay, and I said to the jockey, ‘get the best start you can, because nothing will be coming faster’, so once he was bang there at the home turn, over the Melling Road, I thought ‘there’s only one winner now’. Thank you to Aintree for putting it on - we absolutely love this place.
“When Bet365 put my money in my account tonight, it will be spent tomorrow on the beer - we will celebrate this proper. It's taken me 30 years to do this - it might take me another 30.”
Jockey James King, partnering his second winner of the race following Dineur in 2007, said: “The first one didn’t really sink in but I will definitely appreciate this one a lot more. He said don’t miss the start and don’t give any ground away and you will be finishing fast at the end and his instructions proved correct.
“I couldn’t believe the start I got with 20-odd runners lining up abreast. I thought they would go a hellish gallop over the first four. Me and Jack Andrews got a great start - we went down to the second upsides and that’s where I stayed really to the fore.
“I had a great sit down to the inside and he is a very neat agile horse. I was able to give him a good spin around the Canal Turn and he jumped well from there. It is great. It didn’t sink in the first time but second time it means a whole lot more. After the race he said ‘brilliant’ and his instructions before the race were “Give it a ride” and hopefully I’ve done that.”
Northern Irish-born David Maxwell, rider of third home Cat Tiger, commented: “That was awesome, he’s a lovely little horse. He jumped like a bunny and made a mistake about five out, but he’s jumped brilliantly other than that and just hasn’t quite got home. He possibly just used up a little bit of juice that he needed (with that mistake), but that was brill.”
It proved to be a disappointing race for the Irish, with the favourite Billaway staying on late to take fifth, clear of Mighty Stowaway who finished tenth after never getting involved.
Recent Down Royal winner Some Man had raced prominently, however he weakened very quickly from the penultimate fence to finish 11th, whilst Rewritetherules pulled up at the second-last having never recovered from a mistake at the Foinavon fence.
Irish jockeys Derek O’Connor and John Barry did complete finishing 12th and 13th on their respective mounts Federici and Looking Well.