The eternal battle between British and Irish stables for dominance of the “world’s greatest steeplechase” continues at Aintree on Saturday with the first £1 Million Crabbie’s Grand National, a race in which the Irish raider will be hoping to break a run of six successive victories for the home team stretching back to the win of Comply Or Die back in 2008, writes Elliot Slater.
Prior to the success of David Pipe’s fine stayer Ireland had enjoyed a golden period with three successive wins; Hedgehunter (2005), Numbersixvalverde (2006) and Silver Birch (2007). In recent years however Ireland has come close – Oscar Time was runner-up in 2011 to Ballabriggs – but no cigar, so there will be plenty in the Emerald Isle hoping that one of the their ten runners can come up with the goods at the weekend.
Judging by the ante-post betting however the Irish have it all to do with nine of the first ten in the list being trained in Britain. Prince de Beauchene (20/1), trained by Willie Mullins is certainly one of the best hopes of an Irish winner having been laid out for the race all year by his outstanding trainer. He ran well enough when fourth at Thurles in January over an inadequate trip to suggest he will be at the peak of his powers for the big race.
Another big hope for the away team is Double Seven (25/1), trained by Martin Brassil. The JP McManus-owned eight-year-old rattled off five wins in a row before finishing only sixth at Leopardstown last month, but he was very much in need of the outing and that performance shouldn’t be taken literally. Big Shu (33/1) is a horse who definitely has a squeak having run another great race at the Cheltenham Festival last month to finish third in the marathon Cross Country Chase, a race he won 12 months earlier. Peter Maher’s charge stays well, can handle big obstacles, and will appreciate the expected decent ground on the big day.