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Irish Mirror
Irish Mirror
Robert Hynes

Irish horses suffer travel trouble en route to Grand National at Aintree

Irish horses travelling to Aintree for Saturday's Grand National faced travel trouble on Thursday.

Horses trained by the likes of Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott were delayed on their journey to Liverpool. The trip time usually takes nine hours, but it is understood it took 14 on Thursday, with the Irish runners not arriving at the racecourse until 4.30am on Friday.

Horses trained in Ireland dominate the betting for the world's most famous steeplechase, with five of the last six winners being Irish-trained.

READ MORE: Ted Walsh has his say on planned Grand National protest by Animal Rising activists

Rachael Blackmore's mount, Ain't That A Shame, has been backed into favourite for the race ahead of last year's third Delta Work, who Gordon Elliott thinks is his best chance of winning the race for a record-equalling fourth time.

He said: “If I had to pick a horse to ride this year, it would be Delta Work. He got a little bit far back early last year, but ran a very good race.

“He was a bit careful, but he is in great form now and we couldn’t be happier with him.”

Elliott’s second string appears to be Galvin, who was runner-up to Delta Work at Cheltenham just over four weeks ago and will be ridden by Davy Russell, who steered Tiger Roll to his two National wins.

Russell came out of retirement to stand in for the sidelined Jack Kennedy earlier in the season and it would be a fitting end to his riding career if he can go out on a blaze of glory.

Elliott, who also runs Dunboyne (Jack Tudor), Fury Road (Jonjo O’Neill Jnr), Coko Beach (Harry Cobden) and Escaria Ten (Adrian Heskin), added: “With Galvin, the drier the ground, the better chance he has.

“He will have come on a lot from Cheltenham and is in good form. We are very, very happy with him.”

The horse bidding to emulate Tiger Roll by securing back-to-back Grand National wins is the Emmet Mullins-trained Noble Yeats.

The eight-year-old gave distinguished amateur jockey Sam Waley-Cohen the perfect send-off last year, returning to Aintree to win the Many Clouds Chase in December before finishing third and fourth in the Cotswold Chase and Cheltenham Gold Cup respectively.

Mullins is hoping Sean Bowen can repeat Waley-Cohen’s tactics from 12 months ago, saying: “He was last over the first last time. He wasn’t in contention for the first two miles, but it all worked out in his favour.

“There’s no rule of thumb for it, it’s just getting the horse happy and confident in a bit of space and running into the gaps. It’ll probably have to be the brave man’s route to get that space. He negotiated it last year and fingers crossed he can do it again.

“I think he’s getting a bit wiser every time and looking after himself a bit more. He’s just holding a bit back for himself, but hopefully we can get it out of him.

“Just a bit of space is ideal for him, it’s going to be hard in a National with 40 runners but I suppose I’ll just keep telling Sean to go back and look at Sam’s ride last year.”

“He travelled over great and is in great form. We are really looking forward to it,” said the Kildare handler.

“If you drew a line under his last run, his form is rock solid.

“The ground is beautiful, everything seems good and well for him. He is in great form and working well at home. You get a bit of luck in running, and hopefully he runs a big race for everyone.

“It is a race that every trainer in the world wants to win and to have a horse going to it with a great chance is brilliant.

“Please God he’ll win and it would be brilliant for everyone involved.

“I think he can win – I do. I can’t see any reason why not. I think he has a great profile. You take away his fall and he has a proper profile for it.”

Any Second Now will carry top weight of 11st 12lb, having finished an unlucky third in the race in 2021 and second to Noble Yeats last year.

In contrast to Fahey, trainer Ted Walsh feels the 11-year-old’s best chance may have passed, however.

He said: “He’s as good as he can be and I think he’s as good as he was last year. That probably won’t be good enough but anymore than that I can’t do.

“Whatever he has he has, but he is rated 8lb higher than last year and he couldn’t win it last year, so it is very hard to see him winning now. But he’s in good nick, he goes there with a good chance and I’m glad to have him.

“There’s been no hiccups all season and everything is good, no problems.

“It is great to be a part of it. I never thought I would ever have a horse that was saddlecloth number one going to the start of the Grand National anyway.

“Everyone in National Hunt racing dreams about a Gold Cup and a Grand National or Irish National and they are the biggest ones you can get.

“The dream has already been fulfilled (Walsh won the race with Papillon in 2000), but I don’t know if it will be fulfilled again.”

Longhouse Poet was sixth last year, weakening in the finish after racing to the fore. He advertised his well-being when beating Roi Mage at Down Royal and trainer Martin Brassil, who won the race in 2006 with Numbersixvalverde, feels he will be right in the thick of things again.

“Everything is as it should be, hopefully,” he said. “He was a bit keen last year and we have had that to look back on, so we can see what we can do to alleviate it.

“The fact that he has had a run round there might mean he is not as exuberant as he was the first time, but at least he has the experience of it anyway.

“It’s a great ride for JJ (Slevin) and there has been plenty of rain, which won’t hurt – the slower the ground, the better.”

Vanillier has just 10st 6lb on his back as he bids to join that elite trio and trainer Gavin Cromwell thinks there is plenty in his favour.

“He has a lovely weight,” said the Navan handler. “The ground looks like it is going to be ideal and he’s settled in well since he’s come over.

“We’re looking forward to it. His run last time behind Kemboy in the Bobbyjo was a great run, especially since were were ‘wrong’ at the weights, and that was a good prep.

“He has come out of that well and hopefully come forward a bit since then.

“Like every National, you need everything to go your way and you need luck on your side, but if he gets that, hopefully he’ll be in the mix.

“I think he’ll take to the fences. We schooled him over similar (National) fences at the Curragh and he seemed to like them, so fingers crossed he’ll go well.”


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