Red Marauder

Red Marauder The 2001 renewal of the Grand National was memorable for several reasons. Run with foot-and-mouth precautions in place, in atrocious conditions, the race descended into a gruelling war of attrition, with just four finishers – two of whom were remounted – and a winner who was described by his jockey, Richard Guest, as ‘the worst jumper ever to win a Grand National.’

The winner was, of course, Red Marauder, an unheralded 33/1 chance at the ‘off’, who survived numerous mistakes to come home in splendid isolation, a distance ahead of Smarty. On a wet, windy afternoon, 15 of the 40 starters had already exited the race by the time the field approached the Canal Turn on the first circuit. At that stage, the riderless Paddy’s Return, who had parted company with jockey Adrian Maguire at the third fence, ran down the fence and put to the chances of eight more runners.

Heading out onto the second circuit, just eight runners remained and that number was reduced to three after a further incident at the nineteenth fence and the departure of the well-fancied Beau a fence later. Thereafter, the National effectively became a match between Red Marauder and Smarty; although headed, after another mistake, at the fourth-last fence, Red Marauder took a clear lead

turning for home and was driven out to beat his toiling rival, who stopped to a walk on the run-in. Blowing Wind and Papillon were eventually remounted to finish third and fourth, the proverbial ‘country mile’ behind the first pair.

Grand National 2022

Grand National 2022 The 174th running of the Grand National is scheduled for Saturday, April 9, 2022 which, at the time of writing, is nearly four months away. Indeed, the weights for the world famous steeplechase won’t be announced until February and, when they are, may interest the connections of Tiger Roll more than most.

Of course, Tiger Roll won the Grand National in 2018 and 2019, but was denied a historic hat-trick attempt in 2020, when the race was cancelled because of Covid-19. In 2021, owners Michael and Eddie O’Leary, took exception to an ‘unfair weight burden’ and withdrew him, but Tiger Roll is a top-priced 33/1 for the 2022 Grand National, so we’ll see. Trainer Gordon Elliott was realistic in his appraisal of the 11-year-old, saying, ‘…it’s not going to be any easier for him [to win a third Grand National] as he’s not getting any younger.’

A return to Aintree is the main plan for last year’s history-making winner Minella Times (20/1), with trainer Henry de Bromhead planning a campaign in ‘better graded races’. The 8-year-old made an inauspicious reappearance in the John Durkan Memorial Chase at Punchestown in December, falling at the third last when well behind, but was entitled to need that run, his first since April. That said, he is already rated 162 in Britain and, therefore, almost certain to carry top weight in the Grand National, so he’ll need to be better than ever to win again.

Others to note at this early stage include the ante-post favourite, Galvin (16/1), who won the National Hunt Challenge Cup at the Cheltenham Festival in 2021 and divided Frodon and Minella Indo in the Ladbrokes Champion Chase at Down Patrick on his most recent start in October. He is trained, like Tiger Roll, by Gordon Elliott and could yet prove the natural successor to his illustrious stable companion.

 

Ruby Walsh

Ruby Walsh Rupert “Ruby” Walsh, the eldest son of Kildare trainer Ted Walsh, is recognised as one of the finest National Hunt jockeys of his generation. He has ridden over 2,500 winners and is one of a few jockeys who’ve won the Champion Hurdle, the Queen Mother Champion Chase, the Stayers’ Hurdle and the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

In addition, despite the injuries that are an occupational hazard of working with horses in any discipline, never mind jumping fences on a half-ton racehorse travelling at 40 miles an hour, Walsh Jnr. has an enviable record in the Grand National. In 13 attempts, so far, he has failed to complete the National Course just three times and, apart from Leighton Aspell, is the only current jockey to have won the National twice.

In fact, he won the National on his first attempt, as a 20-year-old, aboard Papillon, trained by his father, Ted, in 2000. The following year, the same horse refused at the nineteenth fence after being hampered by a loose horse but, in the days before remounting was banned, Walsh climbed back aboard and hacked home to finish a distant fourth. In 2002, he completed the course again, when a not-quite-so-distant fourth on Kingsmark, trained by Martin Todhunter. He didn’t have to wait long for his second National winner, though, because his was back in the winners’ enclosure again in 2005, having ridden Hedgehunter, trained by Willie Mullins, to a 14-length win over Royal Auclair.

Walsh has yet to win the National again, but finished second on Hedgehunter in 2006 and third on My Will, trained by Paul Nicholls, in 2009. His most recent ride in the great race, Pleasant Company, in 2017, could only stay on at one pace from the second last to finish ninth, beaten 28¾ lengths, behind the winner, One For Arthur. However, in 2018, with Walsh sidelined with a broken leg, suffered on the second day of the Cheltenham Festival, the same horse finished second, beaten just a head, for jockey David Mullins and trainer Willie Mullins.