Hear The Echo fulfilled the promise he had shown earlier in his career when winning the 2008 Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse. The Mouse Morris-trained chaser surged clear under Paddy Flood for a 12-length victory at the end of the three mile, five furlong contest, scoring at odds of 33/1. Bred by Nuala Delaney, Hear The Echo’s first taste of competitive action came as a four-year-old at Tallow point to point in February, 2005, when storming to a six-length victory under Paul Cashman. His debut under Rules followed in a Naas maiden hurdle that October but the outing proved frustrating for connections, including his then trainer David Wachman, as he unseated Conor O’Dwyer when hurdling the third-last. Victory followed six days later with a five-length defeat of Patsy Hall at Down Royal. Hear The Echo was unsuccessful in three remaining starts that season and the Gigginstown House Stud-owned gelding was moved to the stable of Mouse Morris for the 2006/2007 campaign. He made the perfect start for Morris, winning his first chase by five lengths at Clonmel that November. He pulled-up behind Back In Front next time but was then a fine second to Schindler’s Hunt in the Grade One Durkan New Homes Novice Chase at the Leopardstown Christmas Festival. Victory followed in the Grade Two Paddy Fitzpatrick Memorial Novice Chase at the same course in January, before falling at the second-last in the Grade One Baileys Arkle Perpetual Challenge Cup later that month. He tipped up again at Navan the next month before finishing third and fourth to Offshore Account at Navan and Naas respectively. The season concluded in the Grade One Powers Gold Cup at Fairyhouse, in which he finished eighth. Hear The Echo returned to action in October, 2007, making little impact in two starts. He caught the eye next time when seventh in the Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown on December 27. Ridden by Davy Russell, Hear The Echo made progress to fourth before a poor jump at the last saw him fade to finish eight and a half-length eighth behind Newbay Prop. Following a three-month break, Hear The Echo was a fresh horse for the Irish National. Allotted a featherweight 10st, the seven-year-old took up the running four fences from home and stayed on readily from runner-up Royal County Star. With the John Smith’s Grand National in mind, Hear The Echo’s first three outings this term came over hurdles. Switched back to fences in the Grade Two Red Mills Chase at Gowran Park on February 14, Morris’ charge unseated Russell two from home.
Race Record: Starts: 22; Wins: 4; 2nd: 1; 3rd: 1; Win & Place Prize Money: £164,006
Gigginstown House Stud
Famous for its horses and prized Aberdeen Angus cattle, Gigginstown House Stud, near Mullingar, Co Westmeath, is the residence of Michael O’Leary, chief executive of the highly successful budget airline Ryanair. O’Leary was born in Mullingar on March 20, 1961 and he was educated at the exclusive Clongowes Wood College, Co Kildare, and read business studies at Trinity College Dublin. After graduating in 1983, O’Leary began working as an accountant for SKG as well as setting up a chain of newsagents. While working at SKG, he advised Tony Ryan, head of Guinness Peat Aviation and father of O’Leary’s school friend Declan. He rose to become Ryan’s financial advisor in 1987 and was given the task of turning round his failing budget airline, Ryanair, becoming deputy chief executive in 1991 and chief executive in 1994. O’Leary modelled Ryanair on the no-frills US operator Southwest Airlines. The airline benefited from the EU’s deregulation of the air industry in 1992 and has grown to become one of Europe’s largest carriers, carrying 67 millions passengers a year. O’Leary started off with horses on the Flat with David Wachman and Mick Halford, but he has become best known for his jumpers, which are split between a host of Irish trainers, most notably Mouse Morris, Charlie Swan, Charles Byrnes, Paul Nolan and Michael Hourigan. Morris has been responsible for the 2006 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner War Of Attrition and the 2008 Irish Grand National scorer Hear The Echo, while Swan trained One Cool Cookie to take the Powers Gold Cup (2007) and Nolan sent out Kill Devil Hill to triumph in the Drinmore Novice Chase (2005). O’Leary enjoyed a second success at the Cheltenham Festival this year when Weapons Amnesty won the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle. Davy Russell is the retained jockey for Gigginstown House Stud, while O’Leary’s brother Eddie, a top pinhooker and brother-in-law of ex-jockeys Charlie Swan and Norman Williamson, takes care of the day to day running of the operation. While he has often courted controversy with his publicity for Ryanair, O’Leary wanted his horses to run in the now famous maroon and white colours of Gigginstown House Stud because he did not want to draw attention to his runners: “I do an awful lot of stuff for Ryanair, but that is PR - you're trying to promote Ryanair and sell seats on planes. That's all part of the job. Outside of that I don't want - and don't need - profile or publicity. This was the only vehicle I had of not having my name associated with it. Obviously, after you win a Gold Cup, everyone knows that Gigginstown House Stud is mine, but for a couple of years there nobody knew who or what the hell it was."
John Smith's Grand National Record: No previous runners
Michael (Mouse) Morris IRE
Born April 4, 1951, Michael Morris has been known as Mouse since his early days as an amateur rider. His father, Lord Killanin, competed at the Olympic Games and went on to head the International Olympic Committee while his brother Redmond’s film credits as a producer include The Reader. As a youngster in Ireland, Mouse showed little enthusiasm for school, preferring to spend his mornings riding out for a local trainer and did not enjoy his time when sent to Ampleforth College in Yorkshire. He served his apprenticeship at the celebrated Frenchie Nicholson academy in Cheltenham alongside the likes of Pat Eddery and Tony Murray. He came back to Ireland, riding principally for Edward O’Grady and As a jockey he won the Irish Grand National on Billycan in 1977 and the Queen Mother Champion Chase twice on Skymas in 1976 and 1977. He took out his trainer’s licence in 1980 and immediately established himself as one of Ireland’s leading National Hunt trainers. Has five Cheltenham Festival wins to his credit - the best of these being Buck House’s victory in the 1986 Queen Mother Champion Chase and War Of Attrition’s 2006 totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup success. He trains at Everardsgrange, Fethard, in Co. Tipperary. In 1984, Door Step became his first John Smith’s Grand National runner, but fell at the 18th fence. Lastofthebrownies finished a best-placed fourth for him in 1989.
John Smith’s Grand National Record: 1984 Door Step (Fell 18th); 1987 Attitude Adjuster (8th), Hi Harry (Ref 19th); 1988 Attitude Adjuster (5th), Lastofthebrownies (Fell 3 out); 1989 Lastofthebrownies (4th), Attitude Adjuster (12th), Cranlome (Fell 2nd); 1990 Lastofthebrownies (5th); 1991 Mick’s Star (13th); 1992 Rawhide (UR 1st); 1995 For William (15th); 1996 Three Brownies (6th); 1997 New Co (15th); 2004 Alcapone (PU Bef 25th); 2008 Baily Breeze (8th)