At 5.15pm on Saturday, 40 racehorses will line up for the 2022 Randox Grand National at Aintree, just a few miles from Liverpool city centre.
First run in 1839, the Grand National is still regarded by many as the greatest race of them all. The purists prefer the Cheltenham Gold Cup or Epsom Derby, but it is the National which captures the public’s imagination and does more to capture new fans for the sport than any other event.
This was never more true than in 2021 when Rachael Blackmore became the first woman to ride the Grand National winner. Fresh from another spectacular Cheltenham Festival, the Tipperary woman will be back on board last year’s hero Minella Times on Saturday but the horse has been out of form so far this season and a repeat win looks unlikely.
An unlucky third last year, Any Second Now is trained by Ted Walsh, who you may remember won the National in 2000 with Papillon
JP McManus, owner of Minella Times, has several other strong contenders, including the likely favourite Any Second Now. An unlucky third last year, Any Second Now is trained by Ted Walsh, who you may remember won the National in 2000 with Papillon, the race which truly launched the career of jockey Ruby Walsh.
A mixed weather forecast for the week should result in good to soft ground for Saturday’s big race, which will suit most horses. The more rain the better for Delta Work, winner of the Cross Country Chase at Cheltenham for owner Michael O’Leary. The ground was exceptionally soft when he defeated Tiger Roll last month – he will hardly get the same conditions here and his jumping could struggle in a crowded field.
Another who would love heavy ground is Longhouse Poet, trained on the Curragh by Martin Brassil, who won the 2006 National with Numbersixvalverde and hasn’t had a runner in the race since.
No female horse has won the National since 1951
Four of the last five National winners have been Irish-trained and two other Irish runners to consider are Escaria Ten – who is closely matched with Any Second Now – and the outsider Court Maid, who has switched stables from Tom Mullins to Henry de Bromhead.
Court Maid is one of the few mares in the race. No female horse has won the National since 1951 but there are a few with a squeak this time around. In particular, watch out for Snow Leopardess, a grey 10-year-old who has won all three of her races this season, including one over the National fences last December.
Snow Leopardess is a remarkable animal. She has had two serious injuries and actually had a foal during one of her enforced breaks from racing. She has returned to the track with an unquenchable desire for victory, bouncing out in front and daring anything to try and pass her.
Have a few quid on her. You are guaranteed to get a great run for your money.
1 Snow Leopardess.
2 Any Second Now.
4 Cloth Cap.