Sadly, due to covid-19 the actual Grand National didn’t take place in 2020. We had to make do with a ‘virtual’ Grand National instead.
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.
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.