There is still no race to rival the Randox Grand National at Aintree, and Henry de Bromhead and Rachael Blackmore can now win it for the second time in three years, this time with Ain’t That A Shame.
In a global sense, the £561,000 purse for top prize isn’t particularly noteworthy – the richest event in world racing is the Saudi Cup, a £16.6m sprint on the gravel in Riyadh with £8.3m millions available to the winner – but nothing compares to a handicap chase over single fences and four and a half miles.
With 13 of the top 14 in the betting trained in Ireland, it illustrates the seismic movement of good horses across the Irish Sea in recent years, not that the English have no chance of keeping the national side at home.
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Blackmore created history aboard Minella Times two years ago when she became the first female jockey to win the Aintree showpiece and rides Ain’t That A Shame for De Bromhead, with the nine-year-old available at 20-1 . Stamina is the primary concern, however.
De Bromhead says he is “confident” his charge will get the distance. He tends to be ridden prominently in his races, and it will be fascinating to see if Blackmore rides him like he’s likely to come home. He should get into a nice jumping rhythm regardless.
Tips for big rides
1 It’s not a pity
2 Mister Incredible
3 Noble Yeats
4 Corach Ramblers
5 longhouse poet
There has been much talk of novice Noble Yeats’ inexperience before he won the race 12 months ago, but Ain’t That A Shame is less course. Emmet Mullins’ runner had appeared 11 times on the track entering the extravaganza. Ain’t That A Shame only saw the track 10 times.
De Bromhead’s runner form stacks up really well. He last beat Macs Charm at Gowran and that runner made his handicap debut on Monday at Punchestown, winning quite easily. At Leopardstown at Christmas, he was reverted to a big handicap favorite and arguably best-traveled of all, finishing just behind Panda Boy, who ran blind in the Irish national team.
The Irish probably have Corach Rambler to worry about. His success in the Ultima at last month’s Cheltenham Festival for the second year running means he’s officially ‘good’ tomorrow at 10lbs.
Derek Fox rode the horse with remarkable patience. He may be easier in a big field handicap at Cheltenham than at Aintree but the horse has a powerful finish and it will be captivating to see how Fox plots his way.
A bigger threat to the selection could be the Willie Mullins-trained Mister Incredible, who has his own ideas about running but has now put two really solid efforts back-to-back. It is owned by Paul Byrne, who sold Noble Yeats ahead of his national triumph.
Byrne developed an obsession with finding horses for the National. Mr Incredible was a rather leftist option – he turned it down and then stalled in his last two starts for De Bromhead – but he took life well in Mullins’ stable.
Could Noble Yeats do it at a top 19lb mark 12 months later? Sam Waley-Cohen has since retired, so Sean Bowen will be aboard a horse that had a strong race in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Longhouse Poet represents a stable that knows all about winning the big race, with Martin Brassil coaching 2006 winner Numbersixvalverde. However, in last year’s race he seemed to lack stamina. Wait for her jockey
JJ Slevin, among the winners yesterday at Aintree, taking his time. Blackmore will do just that too. Or could Davy Russell ride Galvin to glory and retire on the spot? It is a race not to be missed.