Now as good a time as any for JP McManus' horse to win the Grand National

Kevin Murphy looks at the top runners and Cork connections at the Aintree meet
Now as good a time as any for JP McManus' horse to win the Grand National

Any Second Now and Mark Walsh win the Webster Cup Steeplechase. Picture: Healy Racing.

THE Aintree Grand National is always a puzzle for punters but Any Second Now has excellent claims for JP McManus and trainer Ted Walsh.

The National is always a great spectacle with so many of the forty runners layed out for this race. Any Second Now won the Kim Muir Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in 2019 and was coming to the boil very nicely for this race last year only for it to be called off.

This season has revolved around the Grand National and he showed his wellbeing by winning a Grade 2 chase over two miles at Navan recently. This nine-year-old ticks plenty of boxes and shapes as though a marathon test will suit while a sounder surface is also in his favour.

Henry de Bromhead and Rachael Blackmore emerged as real heroes at Cheltenham and they will combine with Minella Times in the Grand National. They took Cheltenham by storm and seek to round off a stunning season by winning the world’s most famous jumps race.

Blackmore became the first female to be crowned leading rider at the festival last month with six winners. Minella Times is priced between 10-1 and 12-1 for the Grand National, a race neither De Bromhead nor Blackmore has won before. In fact, no female rider has been successful, Katie Walsh going closest in 2012 when third to Neptune Collonges on Seabass.

De Bromhead said: “Minella Times runs in the Grand National and Rachael rides him. He’s progressed really nicely this season and I thought his run in the Paddy Power over Christmas was a really good one, as was his last one at Leopardstown. The trip is an unknown with Minella Times. You’d like to think he will stay and improve for it, but you never know until you try it. He has to go out there and do it and prove it. Touch wood, he jumps really well and he seems to be in very good form at home.”

Minella Times and Rachael Blackmore (second right) wins the Southampton Goodwill Plate Handicap Steeplechase from Beyond The Law, Bay Hill and Treacysenniscorthy. Picture: Healy Racing
Minella Times and Rachael Blackmore (second right) wins the Southampton Goodwill Plate Handicap Steeplechase from Beyond The Law, Bay Hill and Treacysenniscorthy. Picture: Healy Racing

Minella Times will not be De Bromhead’s only representative as Chris’s Dream and Balko Des Flos will also be on the ferry. 

CORK CONNECTIONS

Cork jockey Darragh O’Keeffe, who guided A Plus Tard to victory in the Savills Chase, will ride Chris’s Dream, while Innishannon’s Aidan Coleman has been booked for Balko Des Flos after providing the stable with one of their many magic moments at Cheltenham when Put The Kettle On won the Champion Chase.

De Bromhead said: “Chris’s Dream has been very disappointing on his last two starts, but the one thing I would say is that both of those runs were in strongly run races over two and a half miles.

“He has run in the John Durkan and the Ryanair. His last run over three miles was savage at Down Royal and we’re hoping the longer trip and the National fences might spark him into life. He seems to be in cracking form at home anyway and Darragh will ride him. Rachael said Balko was giving her a great spin in the Cross Country at Cheltenham before they parted company.

“He was really enjoying himself and he’s been in mighty form ever since. He’s a very, very talented horse on his day and things just haven’t gone his way lately. Aidan Coleman will ride him.”

Owner JP McManus is set to field seven runners in the Randox Grand National with connections still to finalise a jockey for only Anibale Fly. Trained by Tony Martin, whoever is chosen for Anibale Fly could be in for some thrill at Aintree on Saturday, given he has finished fourth and fifth in the race in the past — as well as being placed twice in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

All other jockeys have been finalised, though, with McManus’ racing manager Frank Berry filling in the gaps: “Mark Walsh will ride Any Second Now, Richie McLernon rides Kimberlite Candy, Derek O’Connor probably rides Ok Corral because he’s won on him a couple of times.”

Paul Nolan has gone close with Latest Exhibition in one Grand National this week and can now look forward to a tilt at another race he has always dreamed of winning the Randox Grand National. A sound jumper and a proven stayer, Discorama is set to carry a handy racing weight of 10st 6lb and has been attracting very strong each-way support as the big day approached. Discorama did not line up at this year’s Cheltenham Festival, side-stepping the meeting in favour of a trip to Liverpool — having run well in March at Prestbury Park for the previous three seasons without enjoying a victory.

SHISKIN

Elsewhere on the card, the Joe Donnelly-owned Shiskin aims to keep his unbeaten record over fences intact. He was a brilliant winner of the Arkle at Cheltenham and will go off at prohibitive odds.

The opposition is led by Almankind who represents the all-conquering Skelton team. Aidan Coleman and Paisley Park will hope to take the Stayers race which would be compensation for finishing third to Flooring Porter at Cheltenham. The Philip Hobbs trained Thyme Hill is the obvious danger while the Skelton’s runner Roksana will relish a step up in trip to three miles here.

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