Women to watch at Aintree
Women have excelled at the Grand National Festival over recent years. No less than three female trainers have trained a Grand National winner in the last decade, and it’s not just the trainers, top jockey Lizzie Kelly won the Grade One Betway Bowl with Tea For Two just two years ago.
The leading ladies have a strong cast of hopefuls in the big races this year so keep your eyes peeled on their horses throughout the Grand National Festival.
Jessica Harrington is one of the best trainers in Britain and Ireland, she regularly picks up winners in Jump racing’s biggest festivals and the Grand National Festival is no different.
The Irish trainer’s first major success at the Grand National Festival was Moscow Flyer winning the Grade One Melling Chase in 2004.
The top-class two mile chaser then won six races in-a-row which included the Irish Champion Chase, the Tingle Creek, the Champion Chase and the Melling Chase. Moscow Flyer defended his Melling Chase crown superbly in 2005 too winning by 16 lengths.
A standout victory in recent years was Jezki’s utterly dominant display in the 2015 Grade One Aintree Hurdle. It was Jezki’s seventh Grade One win of his career, a testament to his talent as well as Harrington’s training prowess.
This year, Harrington has two outside chances for the Grand National in Sandymount Duke and Magic Of Light. If either of the two Harrington charges won, it would be a shock, however the Grand National is no stranger to big upsets!
Auroras Encore’s stunning 66/1 success in the 2013 renewal provided trainer Sue Smith with the biggest triumph of her training career.
Did you have a lucky flutter on 66/1-shot Auroras Encore in 2013?
— Aintree Racecourse (@AintreeRaces) March 27, 2019
The West Yorkshire handler became the third woman to train a winner of the worlds most famous steeplechase, emulating Venetia Williams and Jenny Pitman.
This year, Smith will be hoping to draw level with Jenny Pitman and become a double Grand National champion. The grey Vintage Clouds has a very strong chance, her nine year old is currently fourth in the betting at 14/1.
Vintage Clouds has shown in his previous Scottish Grand National runs that he has the ability to stay over extreme distances. This season, the grey has shown a lot of promise with a victory at Haydock and a close second in the Ultima Handicap Chase in the Cheltenham Festival.
Smith gave an update on her stable star, “Vintage Clouds has come out of Cheltenham in good form. He took that race really well and he had just come back from a small wind op, so we were absolutely delighted with him. He jumped great and we couldn’t have asked for more.”
Lucinda Russell ended a 38-year wait for a Scottish victory in the Grand National with One For Arthur’s win in 2017.
To celebrate #BurnsNight2018 and everything Scottish
Here's ONE FOR ARTHUR winning the Grand National for Scotland 🏴pic.twitter.com/ujcLmKBfqo
— Great British Racing (@GBRacing) January 25, 2018
After his big triumph, One For Arthur unfortunately suffered a tendon injury which meant a long spell on the sidelines. He was unable to try and defend his Grand National crown with Tiger Roll taking the spoils last year.
This year, One For Arthur hasn’t had the smoothest of preparations, he’s had two runs and unseated his jockey in both those races. However, you can never underestimate a former Grand National winner as he knows what it takes to win the incredibly demanding race.
After a recent racecourse gallop around Carlisle, Russell said, “we were really delighted with him. Obviously this season hasn’t gone smoothly, and we went to Carlisle for a confidence booster – probably more for us than Arthur, to be honest.
“He jumped fantastically well, and Derek (Fox) was delighted – we were all bubbling afterwards.”
Rachael Blackmore is the rising superstar of Irish Jumps racing; she is having a prolific season and currently sits second in the Irish National Hunt Jockey Championships with 84 victories (as of 10:00am Friday 29th March).
Blackmore could become an Irish Champion Jockey in the near future which would do wonders in the battle for equality in our sport.
The jockey from County Tipperary performed brilliantly at The Cheltenham Festival winning the Albert Barlett with Minella Indo and The Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase with A Plus Tard.
What a ride this was from Rachael Blackmore as Minella Indo won the Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle at a huge 50/1!
— ITV Racing (@itvracing) March 18, 2019
Besides regularly riding winners in Ireland and Cheltenham Festival success, Blackmore is likely to have a raft of chances at the Grand National Festival with trainer Henry de Bromhead set to be well-represented at Aintree.
Blackmore will either be riding Sub Lieutenant or Valseur Lido if they go for the Grand National; both have outside chances of making Blackmore the first woman in history to ride the winner of the famous race.
Lalor’s victory in the Grade One Betway Top Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree last year was one of the most emotional and poignant victories of 2018.
14-1 Lalor wins the Betway Top Novices' Hurdle pic.twitter.com/CweWsZKPx0
— ITV Racing (@itvracing) April 13, 2018
Kayley took over her husband Richard’s training license after he sadly passed away in January 2018. This season, Kayley has continued to work hard to create more memories in Richard’s honour.
Lalor won the Racing Post Arkle Trial in November, but sadly couldn’t replicate the performance at The Cheltenham Festival.
However, hopes are high that Lalor can make it three wins from three races at Aintree. Kayley said, “For whatever reason, he just didn’t fire in the Arkle. There’s nothing wrong with him – we’ve been through everything and can’t find anything. He’s bucking and squealing at home.
“We know he’s a very good horse on his day and I hope we’ll see that at Aintree.”
A true National Hunt stalwart, Venetia Williams cemented her name into Grand National history when training 100/1 outsider Mon Mome to victory in 2009.
The then nine-year-old Mon Mome co-holds the record for the longest-odds winner of the National, but unlike the fabled 1967 winner Foinavon, this win owed nothing to good fortune and could principally be attributed to a masterful training performance.
Best wishes to Liam Treadwell who has retired from race riding
Here's his greatest win, the 2009 Grand National with 100/1 shot MON MOME pic.twitter.com/Z8QL8kvxhi
— Great British Racing (@GBRacing) February 14, 2018
Williams has outsider Yala Enki entered in the National this year, she’ll be hoping for a deluge of rain in the days leading up to 6th April to improve the mud lover’s chances.
The 2017 Grand National Festival was set alight when Lizzie Kelly and Tea For Two held off Cue Card and Paddy Brennan to win a thrilling Grade One Betway Bowl.
It's another huge moment for Lizzie Kelly as Tea For Two holds off Cue Card in the Betway Bowl pic.twitter.com/LQd3t79DqM
— Aintree Racecourse (@AintreeRaces) April 6, 2017
Kelly was unseated at the second fence on Tea For Two in the Cheltenham Gold Cup just three weeks prior. But in their next race, their fortunes changed and they got the better of the 2016 winner Cue Card for their second Grade One success.
Tea For Two is entered for the Grand National and currently sits at 66/1. Tea For Two has struggled for any kind of form since his Betway Bowl victory but Kelly will be hoping her mother and step-father who train the horse in tandem, can get him into the right mindset ahead of the big race at Aintree.