Intense Raffles rises to the occasion in Irish National

Second win in Fairyhouse showpiece for trainer Thomas Gibney.

Intense Raffles continued his Fairyhouse love affair to hold off the fast-finishing Any Second Now in a thrilling renewal of the BoyleSports Irish Grand National.

Twelve years on from winning the race with Lion Na Bearnai, Thomas Gibney struck gold again courtesy of the Simon Munir and Isaac Souede-owned French import, who has excelled at Fairyhouse in two starts since his transfer from the continent.

Those victories came in the hands of the currently-injured Daryl Jacob, and Jacob’s misfortune was J J Slevin’s gain as he stepped in to also register his second victory in the Easter Monday showpiece aboard the gutsy grey, who showed his star quality with a brilliant round of jumping.

Always travelling powerfully in the hands of Slevin as he tracked the pace set by Frontal Assault, not even a mistake at four out could halt Intense Raffles’ momentum as the six-year-old eased effortlessly to the head of proceedings.

Keen to hold on as long as possible, Slevin waited until after two out to edge the 13-2 scorer’s nose in front and after jumping the last with a narrow advantage he plugged on gamely to the line as Ted Walsh’s veteran and Willie Mullins’ Minella Cocooner were bearing down with every stride.

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