County Meath trainer Dermot McLoughlin won back-to-back BoyleSports Irish Grand Nationals in 2021 and 2022 with Freewheelin’ Dylan and Lord Lariat.

Freewheelin’ Dylan was the biggest price winner in the history of the race, landing odds of 150-1 in 2021, while Lord Lariat was another big-price winner at 40-1

McLoughlin has a live chance to make it a three Irish Grand National wins in this year’s race with 25-1 chance Digby.

Dermot McLoughlin was speaking exclusively to BoyleSports, who offer the latest Irish Grand National betting.

The trainer lifts the lid on his double National winning celebrations – and reveals his success hasn’t translated into closing the gap to the big guns.

My 25-1 dark horse could bring up a hat trick of Irish Grand National wins

DM: You never know! We have a horse called Digby who is still a novice. He has an entry. He hasn’t even run in a handicap yet with the ground being so bad all winter. He was due to run a couple of times but with the ground so heavy I haven’t risked him.

He is more of a spring horse and could easily sneak into the field. With the weights announced this week. Twenty five have to come out of it but 15 of them are probably going to Aintree. So, I think he will sneak in.

Freewheelin’ Dylan was my first National winner in 2021 – it was a great experience for us all

DM: That was in the middle of COVID so there was a very small crowd [at Fairyhouse]. He was named after Bob Dylan and I bought the horse for a girl who works in our yard, Sheila Mangan. She calls him Bob and his nickname in the yard is obviously Bob.

He progressed, winning his point-to-point and then a Hunter Chase at Listowel. Then he won the Midlands National at Kilbeggan. After that I said to myself: “There’s only one place for you.” That was Fairyhouse as long as the ground was right.

In the Kilbeggan National he won on good ground, jumped out, made all and just got home. That was exactly the same at the Irish National. He bucked out, jumped like a stag and won.

It was a great experience and changed Shelia’s life. She was offered to sell the horse a couple of times but wouldn’t.

He is still up there on the comeback trail. He cracked a bone in the back of his knee in the cross country at Punchestown last April and we gave him the whole winter off. He will run again in a little race after the National if the ground dries out and we’ll have him back for the Spring.

My phone never stopped ringing after the win

DM: Fairyhouse did their best to make an atmosphere, but obviously with no-one there it wasn’t the same.

The phone never stopped hopping after I came home. There were a few people in the yard wearing masks but the owner wasn’t there because she had left the yard after feeding the horses to watch the race on television.

It lifted her no end. She has had her ups and downs. At 150-1, he was the biggest priced winner in the history of the race.

It got him an entry to Aintree in 2022. There he just got tired but still finished seventh. It paid for his trip over, plus she got a few quid out of it! And she had a great time.

2022 winner Lord Lariat gave me the same instincts as Freewheelin’ Dylan – I knew he’d be a National horse

DM: Now that was different! I had only had Lord Lariat for three or four months and he won a Ladies’ race. When he went by the line all he kept doing was galloping. I said to myself again: “I know where you’re going too.”

That was before Christmas. I gave him a run at Leopardstown in desperate ground in January and I put him away. He was very lucky to get in the National – one of the last.

Lo and behold, that was the start of the luck. Talking with Paddy (O’Hanlon) the jockey I said, “We’ll try and get moving early doors.”

The first mile of any National, there’s a lot of pace there. He was able to hold his position. He jumped so well. Paddy sent him for home and he stayed on the best and won at 40-1.

That was a completely different story. The whole place erupted. We came back, the road was lined, there were people in the yard and people in the yard ringing me from there to see when I was getting back. It was carnage down here!

I could take it all in a bit more because the previous year was a lonely place. People were coming into the yard for the next three or four days.

Now when you come into the yard there is a big picture of the two horses looking at each other. So when you’re having a bad day you can always look up and say to yourself that “whatever happens, that has happened and on you go.”

The second National win didn’t have much of an effect on my yard – Willie Mullins can buy any horse he wants

DM: It did and it didn’t. A lot of the owners here stay with the big lads. I got plenty of phone calls. We never have an empty stable, but the calibre horse I am working with is different. Lord Lariat cost €5,500, Freewheelin’ Dylan was €20,000.

A lot of people called afterward to have a chat about my father, Arkle, and Flyingbolt. I’ll talk to anyone because you never know who is ringing. But I don’t want a bigger yard, forty is a perfect number. But the calibre and cost of horses here has gone through the roof – and Willie [Mullins] and Gordon [Elliott] get the pick.

We had one runner at the Dublin Racing Festival – it’s all a one way street.

It is the same in any sport. If you are at the top, you stay at the top and he is well able to stay there and can buy any horse he wants to. The National win didn’t have a material effect, we got no big clients in.

I would have loved to have been training at Cheltenham but only a select few can afford those types of horse

I enjoy what I do. I would have loved to have been at Cheltenham last week and I’d love to be going to Aintree. But the calibre of horse for that, we just don’t have at the moment.

I have been to Aintree and at Cheltenham and I know what you need to do to go there and what you have to acquire. It is just going to get harder and harder. There’s only a few people who can afford these horses but expensive horses don’t always win, you know.

The bigger lads stay with the bigger lads and don’t seem to move around. Years ago, Gigginstown probably had ten different trainers. Now they’re with two, Willie or Gordon, and maybe one or two with Henry [de Bromhead] or Joseph [O’Brien].

I know my level and just have to play my game. The horses are running well and with better ground my horses will be better for it.

Training is tough but when you get big winners, it gives you a huge boost

Yes. We all need a bit of hope. I’ve been training just over ten years now and everyone knows how tough it can be. But if you enjoy it and are having a few winners then it’s good. When you get the bigger winners like the Irish National that gives you a boost.

I love Fairyhouse. It is my local track – I’d love to have a runner in the race every year.

The local village near the course is brought to a standstill every Easter Monday

DM: I have been going to Fairyhouse since I was six or seven. I live ten minutes from the track. I was so proud of the fact that my father Liam rode a winner of it – Kerforo in 1962. He was also Arkle’s first jockey before Pat Taaffe, and I worked at [trainer] Jim Dreaper’s yard for 15 years. When I first started there, I realised what the National meant.

The local village here in Ratoath, County Meath, was brought to a standstill every Easter Monday. The crowds, the cars, people used to leave their vehicles and walk the mile and a half up the road because the traffic was so unbelievable.

I always looked forward to having a runner in the race, let alone winning it. To win it once was great, to win it a second time was unbelievable.

Lord Lariat will go for the Kerry National in September – it was a real shame he couldn’t defend his title last year

DM: Ten days before the race last year, he did a piece of work. We were deciding whether to send him to Aintree or keep him at Fairyhouse. Of the two lads who own him, one wanted to go one way and one the other.

But they decided that winning the Irish National three times in a row hadn’t been done for a long time. Jim Dreaper, my old boss, was the one who did it last, so we aimed for Fairyhouse.

But after the last piece of work, I went to feel his leg. The harm had been done. I got to him in time and he will be back, but we didn’t run him this year.

All the rehabilitation has been done and we have him out in the field next week. I think he’ll go for the Kerry National in September all being well. It was all very unfortunate.

The 2016 Grand National at Aintree was a big miss for me – Vics Canvas could have won

I was third in the Aintree National in 2016 with Vics Canvas behind Rule the World. He was 150-1 and the oldest horse in the race.

He was in front at The Elbow, then made a mistake at Beechers and was lying on the ground. [Jockey] Barry Geraghty said to me afterwards at least 20 horses must have gone past him. By the time he got up and got going again, he’d lost 25 lengths and he was beaten 14 lengths, so that was a miss!

No matter who you are, these are the days when you get such a buzz.