Pleasant Company fine after Aintree

Patrick Mullins reflected on Pleasant Company’s “extraordinary” late charge following his narrow defeat in the Randox Health Grand National at Aintree on Saturday.

Trainer Willie Mullins fielded three runners in a bid to claim the world’s most famous steeplechase for a second time, following the popular triumph of Hedgehunter in 2005.

Ridden by the trainer’s nephew David Mullins, who claimed National glory aboard Rule The World in 2016, Pleasant Company looked booked for minor honours when the Gordon Elliott-trained Tiger Roll swept to the front, but staged a remarkable rally.

After a brief wait, the judge confirmed Elliott’s charge had clung on by a head, but the Mullins camp were gracious in defeat.

Mullins, who is assistant to his father, said on Sunday morning: “Pleasant Company ran an extraordinary race. He jumped fantastically all the way. He looked like he might not even be second jumping the last and then he ran on incredibly well to the line.

“All the way up the run-in I thought he wasn’t going to get there and then right on the line I thought we had shout.

“It wasn’t to be, but he ran a fantastic race and he’s 100 per cent this morning.”

Mullins also fielded 7-1 favourite Total Recall, who was eventually pulled up before the second-last after making several jumping errors, and Childrens List, who travelled well for much of the way before pulling up before the final fence.

“Childrens List ran a fantastic race for a long way and jumped brilliantly,” Mullins jnr continued.

“Johnny (Burke) said he was just doing a bit too much all the way, but with a bit more experience hopefully he’ll be back next year for another crack at it.

“Total Recall made a mistake at the first and a bad mistake at the third and then just seemed to lose his confidence, but he’s come back fine.

“That’s the Aintree factor. It suited Pleasant Company, but it didn’t suit Total Recall.”

The finish was symbolic of the battle between the powerhouse stables of Elliott and Mullins in Ireland.

Elliott beat Mullins to the top trainer award at last month’s Cheltenham Festival and pipped his great rival again in the Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse on Easter Monday, with his General Principle getting up to beat the Mullins-trained Isleofhopendreams on the line.

The focus of both men will now be on matters at home, with Elliott currently holding a significant lead over Mullins as he bids to be crowned champion trainer for the first time.

Elliott was in a similar position this time last year before a late Mullins winning spree at the Punchestown Festival helped him retain his crown and the Clossuton camp will be hoping for something similar later this month.

Mullins added: “Gordon is having a fantastic season and all credit to him.

“We’ll roll on to Punchestown now and try to beat him there.”

With Elliott and Mullins responsible for the first three home, the Tony Martin-trained Anibale Fly completed a clean sweep for Ireland by filling fourth place.Third in the Cheltenham Cup, the eight-year-old covered himself in glory off his big weight of 11st 8lb for owner JP McManus."He was a bit tired afterwards, but he’s fine today. He ran a blinder," said McManus’ racing manager Frank Berry."You couldn’t be happier with him. He jumped great, he had every chance but just met two or three too good for him."We’ll see how he is before we make any decision about whether he goes to Punchestown or not."McManus’ two other runners, Carlingford Lough and Pendra, were pulled up after and before the last respectively."They are both getting on a bit and struggled from some way out, but they are fine today," said Berry.Next year’s National is on the agenda for Seeyouatmidnight, who had every chance until an interrupted preparation caught up with him from the third-last fence and he weakened to finish 11th of the 12 finishers.He was found to be lame on his left-fore afterwards, but trainer Sandy Thomson was happy to report he was sound again on Sunday morning."He’s a bit weary this morning," said the Berwickshire handler."He came off the lorry fine and he’s sound enough. Just the preparation and the ground probably caught up with a wee bit."Brian (Hughes) said what a spin he gave him. He jumped from fence to fence."He missed the one before Becher’s second time and from the third-last he was just running out of oxygen."Thomson has ruled out Seeyouatmidnight making a quick reappearance in the Coral Scottish Grand National at Ayr on Saturday."He won’t be going to Ayr, obviously. We’ll just get through this week," he said."We’ll speak to the owners once we’ve had a day or two to digest it."The owners definitely want to go back with him next year."