‘My best month in racing’ – Ennis
Brian Sheerin, Racing Post
Ballinagore-based Cathal Ennis, the man who bred Saturday’s Aintree Grand National winner Minella Times, has described the momentous victory as being his greatest day in horse racing.
Trained by Henry de Bromhead and owned by JP McManus, Minella Times stormed to Grand National glory under Rachael Blackmore, who made history by becoming the first female to win the Aintree showpiece.
A first cousin of Michael Ennis, who won the Leinster Championship with Westmeath in 2004, Ennis said nothing has ever come close to watching his graduate Minella Times passing the winning line in front at Aintree.
“Saturday was my best day in racing, without a doubt, and I doubt I will ever have as good a day again. To breed a winner of the Grand National is the stuff of dreams and we are barely coming back down to earth.”
“I’ve been breeding horses for over 15 years. My mother and father [Carmel and Stephen] had a piggery and, bit by bit, we have converted the place into a farm where we have around 20 broodmares."
“My cousin Michael was instrumental in getting the farm up and running and without him none of this would have happened. Michael is working in Starfield Stud now in Mullingar and I am aided by Davy Kiernan and Chloe Roche.
“I work in advertising with the Sunday Business Post so without the help of my wife Orla and everyone at home, days like Saturday wouldn’t have been possible.”
Minella Times won in the legendary green and gold silks of McManus but there was a maroon and white hue to the success.
Not only was Minella Times born and bred in Ballinagore, but he also won his maiden hurdle near the Ennis farm, at Kilbeggan races in 2018.
Ennis is in little doubt that, if it wasn’t for an early education in racing by spending summer evenings at Kilbeggan racecourse, he wouldn’t have bred Minella Times.
“It’s funny, if it wasn’t for the Kilbeggan races, none of this would have happened. I spent my childhood going racing at Kilbeggan and that’s where I got my interest, but, more importantly, the dam of Minella Times [Triptoshan] is closely related to a mare called Triptodicks, who used to win regularly at the track.
“When I saw that Triptoshan was for sale, I immediately made a connection and I had to buy her. It’s funny how things work out in life. Little did we know then, but all those summer evenings backing losers at Kilbeggan finally paid off!
“But in all seriousness, it’s a great success for the locality. Everyone has been a great help to me down through the years, especially Michael Donoghue in Mullingar Equine Vets, and you’d be lost without people like that in this game.”
Freewheelin Dylan, a horse that had previously won three races at Kilbeggan including last year’s Midlands Grand National, sprung a 150-1 surprise by winning the Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse on Easter Monday.
Ciaran Murphy, who took over as the official trainer at Charlestown Stud in Mullingar from Dot Love, who won the race in 2013 with Liberty Counsel, supplied the third in this year’s race, Enjoy D’Allen.
The Aintree Grand National will be the main objective for Enjoy D’Allen, according to Murphy, who is enjoying a fine first season with his name over the door at Charlestown Stud.
He said: “We had an amazing result with Liberty Counsel in 2013 and never in our wildest dreams did we think lightning could strike twice.
"The horse may not have won the race but we couldn’t have been more proud by how well he ran in third and hopefully that sets him up for some big days next year.”
Murphy added: “The dream is that he could be an Aintree Grand National horse and I don’t see any reason why he can’t be. He has done nothing but improve all season and the plan will be to train him for that race next year. There should be a lot more to come from him.”