The Aintree Grand National
Irish trainer Pat Fahy is hoping talented performer Morning Assembly lines up the £1-million Crabbie’s Grand National at Aintree on Saturday, 9th April, day three of the Crabbie’s Grand National Festival.
The world’s greatest chase, by far the richest Jump race in Europe, takes place at Aintree over 30 fences and four miles, two furlongs and 74 yards.
The nine-year-old Morning Assembly was a very talented novice two seasons ago when he defeated the high-class Don Cossack, a leading contender for this year’s Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup, in a Grade Two contest at Punchestown. He also finished third in the Grade One RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival and occupied the same finishing position in a Grade One event at the Punchestown Festival.
Morning Assembly missed all of last season with injury but made a most encouraging return to action when a head second in a conditions chase over an extended two miles and five furlongs at Firehouse on 30th January. He is currently a 40/1 chance for Crabbie’s Grand National glory with Betfred, official betting partner of the Crabbie’s Grand National Festival.
Fahy, who is based at Leighlinbridge in County Carlow, commented: “The Crabbie’s Grand National is the long-term plan for Morning Assembly.
“I was delighted with his run at Fairyhouse last weekend. You would have to think he would come on an amazing amount for that effort as he was never off the bridle and we never really pushed to get him fit. We used that race to get him fit and it did. He had been off for almost two years and he wasn’t under any pressure, so hopefully is back to his best.
“He is not too high in the handicap at the moment so we are thinking of going for one of the handicaps at the Cheltenham Festival and then on to Aintree. He is the Gold Cup and the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham but we will have a good look at the handicaps as he seems on a good mark at the moment.
“He is also in the Betfred Grand National Trial at Haydock Park (20th February) which we have considered but if he ran there he wouldn’t be able to go to Cheltenham and I think the owner (Clipper Logistics Group Ltd) would like to take in Cheltenham and Aintree with him. I won the Grand National Trial with Nuaffe (1994) and would love to win it again, so it is always an option.
“I think he is exceptional on soft ground. He beat Don Cossack over two and a half miles on goodish ground so he is capable on it but he wouldn’t want any jar on the ground. When he was third in the RSA Chase it was good ground and I think he just hasn’t got quite the pace when it is like that whereas he can really cruise on softer ground. He got very jarred when he was third at Punchestown on his last run as a novice and had to miss last season, so I wouldn’t want to run him on that kind of ground again.
“I would say he would get the trip fine in the Crabbie’s Grand National and is such a good lepper although you never know how they will take to the fences at Aintree.
“I hope we can get to Aintree with the horse 100 per cent, the right sort of ground and a decent weight. If we do, I think he would have a good chance.”
A huge entry of 126 horses, the highest number since 2008, was unveiled on 3rd February for the £1-million Crabbie’s Grand National. Many Clouds (Oliver Sherwood) is attempting to become the first back-to-back winner since Red Rum in 1973/1974 and heads the ante-post market at 12/1 with Betfred.
The weights for the Crabbie’s Grand National are framed by the British Horseracing Authority’s Head of Handicapping, Phil Smith, and will be unveiled at the Sky Garden in the heart of London on Tuesday, 16th February.
The Crabbie’s Grand National is the only handicap of the year where Smith has absolute discretion to deviate from the normal handicap ratings when determining the weights.