Cromwell ready for strong Aintree challenge

Last Updated 27 Mar 2024 | By Enda McElhinney | Commercial content | 18+ | Play Responsibly | T&C Apply | Wagering

Punchestown Racing – Winter Festival Day 1, Punchestown Racecourse, Naas, Kildare 14/11/2021 The Liam And Valerie Brennan Florida Pearl Novice Steeplechase Keith Donoghue on Vanillier jump the last fence to win

Trainer Gavin Cromwell believes he has a strong Grand National team ahead of the world’s most famous jumps race on April 13.

Cromwell sent out Vanillier to finish second to Corach Rambler last season, the closest he has come to winning the Aintree showpiece, and the grey will headline his challenge this time around.

Limerick Lace, winner of the Mares’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, is also bound for Merseyside, while Malina Girl is in contention if she can creep into the final field of 34.

Vanillier in perfect shape for another go

Vanillier was the closest pursuer of Corach Rambler in last year’s race, the grey beaten some two-and-a-quarter-lengths at the winning post.
He was rated 147 last time and is set to go back to Aintree off just 4lb higher now.

His most recent outing saw him finishing second to the impressive I Am Maximus in the Bobbyjo Chase at Fairyhouse in February and Cromwell was content with that run behind the Willie Mullins-trained 2023 Irish Grand National winner.

“I was delighted with his run. You would have to be very impressed with what I Am Maximus did on the day and it probably took the shine off Vanillier’s run a bit,” he told the Racing Post.

“But if you took I Am Maximus out of the race, he did everything right. He jumped really well and I was very happy with him.”

Vanillier was challenging for Grand National favouritism after that excellent showing, though he has since been usurped after Corach Rambler finished third in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. He’s now available at odds as big as 12/1 for the Grand National.

Limerick Lace ready for National test

Cromwell enjoyed a fine time of it in Cheltenham, further enhancing what has been an excellent season with his British raiders.

He claimed the Kim Muir with Inothewayurthinkin in the hands of Derek O’Connor, while on Gold Cup Day, Limerick Lace and Keith Donoghue had too much for ante-post favourite Dinoblue in the Mares’ Chase.

The Walk In The Park mare is set to run at Aintree off a mark of 145, leaving her 9lb ‘well in’. She was second in the Troytown at Navan on her sole start at three-miles earlier in the season and her trainer is upbeat about the Aintree challenge.

Of Limerick Lace, Cromwell said: “She stays very well so the race should play to her strengths. Keith Donoghue was very good on her in the Mares’ Chase.”

Malina Girl hoping for the breaks

Malina Girl could be the third cog in the Cromwell wheel for the Merseyside showpiece.

Her current position of 52 means she will need to see some late defections but the Co Meath based handler says the plan is to run if she does get in.
She was winner of a near three-and-a-half-mile handicap chase at Cheltenham in November and stamina could be a key trait.

“She may not get in but she’s an intended runner,” he added.

The Danestown handler has already pocketed more than £570,000 in prize-money from his 13 winners on British soil this season and Inothewayurthinkin is also being lined up for an appearance over the three-day Aintree Grand National Festival.

Enda McElhinney

Enda McElhinney is a racing writer with a growing portfolio of work on both British and Irish racing, with a particular fondness for National Hunt racing. While he acknowledges there have been many great runners; there has only ever been one Denman.

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