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Aintree delight for Morris and Mullins

It was hardly surprising that Mouse Morris was momentarily unable to speak after Rule the World had crossed the line to win the Aintree Grand National on Saturday.
Just 12 days earlier he had dedicated the victory of Rogue Angel in the Irish Grand National to the memory of his son Christopher who died while travelling in South America last summer.

David Mullins enjoying his win in the Aintree Grand National on Rule the World

David Mullins enjoying his win in the Aintree Grand National on Rule the World

A clearly emotional Morris was initially lost for words but admitted when he recovered his composure that he would have settled for third.
“I’d have settled for third and been delighted with it. I think we got a bit of help from someone today. He’s had two fractured pelvis and I thought before that he was the best I’d ever had. You have to wonder how good he’d have been with a proper arse on him. He’s a class horse.”
Rule the World was quietly ridden behind the leaders and despite a mistake at the fourth from home was still in contention approaching the elbow.
Despite the stamina sapping conditions Rule the World finished like the proverbial train under a delighted David Mullins to win by six lengths from The Last Samuri with 100/1 chance Vics Canvas third. Gilgamboa was fourth and Goonyella finished fifth.
For David Mullins it was a day to savour as he recalled the experience of riding in his first Aintree Grand National. “It’s a weird feeling, you don’t really believe it and your eyes start to swell up and you don’t k now what to think.
“I was given one instruction by Mouse Morris and Michael O’Leary- jump off wide and try a get a bit of luck after that. I beat Faugheen on Nichols Canyon but I think this tops that”.
Michael and Eddie O’Leary, owners of Gigginstown House Stud will probably never experience a better three weeks having won the Gold Cup with Don Cossack, the Irish National with Rogue Angel and now the Aintree equivalent with Rule the World.
While Morris and Mullins grabbed all the headlines, and rightly so, Robbie Dunne deserves a medal for his amazing recovery on Vics Canvas who pecked on landing first time round at Becher’s Brook. Dunne was thrown over the side but managed to hold on to Vics Canvas’ neck. Almost unbelievably the pair recovered to finish third.
While the Grand National produced most of the headlines at Aintree on Saturday there was some top class Grade One action to enjoy.
Douvan, Yorkhill and Thistlecrack all repeated their Cheltenham success with distinction. Yorkhill in particular produced a dogged display to win the novices hurdle. The 6-y-o son of Presenting pulled hard and was far from fluent at some of his hurdles.
Although he looked like he was heading for defeat Yorkhill found more when challenged and eventually went on to defeat Le Prezien by two and a quarter lengths.
The performance of the week though must be that of Annie Power. The super mare simply blew away the opposition to win the Aintree Hurdle by 18 lengths from My Tent Or Yours on Thursday.
Paul Townend, who deputised for Ruby Walsh after he broke his wrist when Vatour fell, won the leading jockeys title with two winners on Saturday.
Willie Mullins finished the meeting with six winners and is now in pole position to be crowned champion jumps trainer in Britain for the first time.
They bookmakers seem certain Mullins will win the title and he is now no bigger than 1/10 for victory.

Leicester close in on the impossible dream

Events at White Hart Lane on Sunday ensured Leicester City of Champions League football next season, an achievement which, if predicted a year ago, would have been treated with incredulity.
What’s even likelier is that Leicester, under Claudio Ranieri, will fly the Championship pennant over the King Power Stadium next season, given that just three wins separate them from the Premier League title.
Three wins from what might rank as the greatest achievement in the history of English club football, when one considers the financial supremacy of both Manchester clubs and Chelsea in particular.

Kasper Schmeichel, set to replicate his illustrious father’s Premier League winning success.

Kasper Schmeichel, set to replicate his illustrious father’s Premier League winning success.

In a thought-provoking piece on Football365 following Leicester’s win over Sunderland, Daniel Storey wrote: “Leicester City have now been behind in the Premier League for 47 minutes since the end of October. It’s an astounding statistic. Ranieri’s side are not limping their way to promotion, but unearthing new ways to win at will.”
Leicester are charging towards the title in a manner reminiscent of Manchester United at their pomp under Alex Ferguson.
For all the style and swagger Ferguson’s United possessed, they also knew how to grind out results, not so much a case of winning ugly but more a case of demonstrating intent. The true mark of champions.
Everyone – even Leicester fans – have waited for their team to hit a truly rocky patch. But they haven’t.
They’ve lost just three times in 33 League matches, picked up 16 points from a possible 18 and proven as impressive in defence as they have on the counter-attack.
They’ve kept their noses in front in a host of tightly contested matches and are on course to win the title because of their quality, and one hopes that will be recalled in time by those who’ve been too fixated on the inconsistency of bigger budgeted sides.
A sports-mad city could home to the Premier League and European (Rugby) Champions Cups a few weeks from now; and while the Tigers’ re-ascension wouldn’t come as too great a surprise, the Foxes’ elevation may yet prove the sweetest surprise of all. Almost there, lads…

Heavyweight boxing’s fight for credibility

So 26-year-old Anthony Joshua, Sky Sports’ latest boxing hyperstar, is IBF World Heavyweight Champion just 16 fights into his professional career. But whom has he fought of note to claim the belt, just 34 rounds into that pro career?
Granted, deposed champion Charles Martin (29) did come into Saturday’s bout undefeated, but as BBC Sport’s online report stated, the American “barely threw a punch in anger” at Joshua, who once again efficiently polished off another opponent.

Anthony Joshua: can anyone assess the level of his abilities quite yet?

Anthony Joshua: can anyone assess the level of his abilities quite yet?

“I ain’t gonna get too carried away,” said Joshua, adding the IBF belt to the super-heavyweight Olympic Gold he won in London four years ago.
“Every heavyweight has power, but it’s about speed. I showed him levels, I said I would. There’ll probably be some negativity, people saying Martin was easy, but a few days ago he was this big dangerous southpaw.”
The statistics of the fight suggest that while Joshua was indeed dominant, that Martin was clearly another fighter unworthy of a belt deemed worthy of a heavyweight world champion. The tedium catalysed by the Klitschko brothers’ domination of the division for the better part of 15 years has created a bigger problem for heavyweight boxing than the dud bouts of the past 18 months and Tyson Fury’s mouthing off.
For far too long, what was once the blue riband grade of the sport has been mind-numbingly boring, and there’s hardly been a bout of real quality in the past decade.
A Fury/Joshua bout, in the event of Fury seeing off Wladimir Klitschko come July, might well prove the most hyped fight ever staged in Britain. Whether it’ll impress those craving a stylish, skilful bout remains in the realm of ‘whatiffery’. I live in hope, even if it’s misguided.

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