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The English page - Grand National

Delta Work unter Jack Kennedy im Februar in Leopardstown. www.galoppfoto.de - JJ Clark


David Conolly-Smith


Ausgabe 713 vom Freitag, 08.04.2022

The Grand National was first run in 1839 and was originally called the Grand Liverpool Steeplechase and was run in February. The first winner was appropriately named Lottery and of course the race has been a lottery ever since; a handicap with 40 runners is never going to be easy and luck in running always plays a big role. We have not forgotten the 1967 edition, when a loose horse got stuck on the top of the 23rd fence and brought down, or hampered almost the entire field. The 100-1 outsider Foinavon was clear last at the time, but his jockey was as a result able to pick his way through and he won unchallenged. In theory this, or a similar disaster, could happen again, but we doubt it; the fences are now easier, the huge prize-money (this year half a million GBP to the winner) means that there is a much stronger field with virtually no no-hopers, also all runners must not only have a good rating to get into the field but must also qualify.

We therefore expect the race to be won by one of the favourites. At the time of writing the betting is headed by the 10yo French-bred mare Snow Leopardess (Martaline), but in our view she is a false favourite: her popularity is due to her colour (grey), her name, and the fact that she actually retired from racing in 2017 and then took two years off to have a foal by Sir Percy before coming back into training, when her form was greatly improved; she has won her last 3 races, including the Becher Chase over the National fences, but this opposition is far stronger.

She is also trained in England, and we definitely expect another Irish winner. The Irish have dominated this race in recent years, just as they have the Cheltenham meeting, and last year the first five were all trained in Ireland and it is not inconceivable that the same could happen again. Five of the first six from 2021 are running again, including the winner Minella Times (Oscar), whose jockey Rachael Blackmore became the first ever female jockey to ride the winner of this event. However he is not as well handicapped this time, and it would not come as a surprise to see Any Second Now (also by Oscar) to finish in front of him this time; he was third last year but was very unlucky as he was badly hampered and lost his position early on.

Willie Mullins´ Burrows' Saint was fourth last year and, like many of the others, seems to have been trained this year with just the one race in mind. Mullins has an outstanding record at the Cheltenham Festival, but the Irish raider with the best Aintree record is Gordon Elliott, who has no fewer than 8 runners this year. He has publicly declared that French-bred Delta Work (Network) is his best chance, and we can only agree. His victory in the Cheltenham cross-country race 3 weeks ago was very unpopular, as everybody wanted stable companion Tiger Roll to win, but to our mind Delta Work beat him fair and square and that is the best form in Saturday´s field. Delta Work, a multiple Grade One winner over 3 miles, was running for the first time over an extreme distance, but he stayed it really well and we do not think that Saturday´s extra half mile will be a problem.

Delta Work is by one of our favourite N.H. sires Network, a member of Monsun´s first crop; the star of that crop was German Derby winner Samum, who has also done well enough as a sire, including the winner of the Grand Steeplechase de Toulouse this week, but Network, who won the Union-Rennen in the year 2000 and was bred by Gestüt Wittekindshof, has done even better. He died in 2019 after spending his entire stud career in France, mainly covering N.H. mares. Among his progeny Sprinter Sacre stands out; the triple Champion Chase winner is rated the best chaser since Arkle. In terms of class, the Champion Chase is a much better race than the Grand National, which of course is only a handicap, albeit a very valuable one.

Delta Work is not the only runner by Network, Enjoy d´Allen is another one; he is one of five runners in the colours of big Irish owner JP McManus, including Minella Times. Michael O´Leary´s Gigginstown Stud is another owner with five runners; he owned the 2018 and 2019 winner Tiger Roll and this time owns our fancy Delta Work.  Other runners by sons of Monsun are Easysland (Gentlewave) and Fortescue (Shirocco), while Mighty Thunder, trained in Scotland by Lucinda Russell, is by the Fährhof-bred Malinas. Clearly with such a big field almost anything could happen, but we shall be disappointed if the winner does not come from the group mentioned above. The rest of the Aintree card is also strong, with numerous graded races, including several Grade Ones, but obviously the Grand National stands out.

Meanwhile racing continues in many different countries and in Germany we have the first group race of 2022 at Düsseldorf on Sunday. To be frank, this mile race is not the best group race ever run, but it looks very competitive and the field includes two previous winners in Zavaro (Areion), who scored last year for trainer Henk Grewe, and locally-trained veteran Wonnemond, who won back in 2017 and is running in the race for fifth time. These two are both by Areion, who also has Rubaiyat, another one trained by Grewe, in the field; Rubaiyat and Mythico (Adlerflug), last year´s German 2,000 Guineas winner, are arguably the two best horses in the race but they both have to give weight away. Ocean (Exosphere) is trained in France by Stephan Cerulis and is the only foreign runner. He has already had a couple of races this year, while most of the German-trained runners are making their 2022 debuts, so fitness, rather than class, may decide the issue. Also of interest at Düsseldorf are the two 3yo maiden races, particularly the one for fillies, bearing in mind that both German fillies´ classics are run at this track. We shall know much more next week.

David Conolly-Smith

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