Light looks heavyweight National contender
Last season’s Grand National runner up the @Jessica_Racing trained Magic Of Light after making it back to back wins in the Listed Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association Mares Chase @NewburyRacing under @Robbie_Power_ pic.twitter.com/ztbOYblD3g
— Graham Clark (@GrahamClark85) December 18, 2019
Jessica Harrington, arguably the best dual-purpose trainer in Britain & Ireland, sent out the mare Magic Of Light to finish a superb second to the mighty Tiger Roll in last year’s Randox Health Grand National at Aintree, and the all-girl team will bid to go one better in the April 4, 2020 renewal.
Very few mares take on the daunting challenge of the thirty Aintree fences, and you have to go all the way back to the victory of Nickel Coin in 1951 to find the last female winner of the legendary Merseyside marathon.
Mares have a better record in the Grand National than it appears
But before you discount even the faintest possibility of a mare winning the Grand National for the first time in almost 70 years, you should take into account the fact that very few mares actually run in the race.
Alongside the stunning effort of Magic Of Light in the 2019 renewal, there have been other mares placed in the race in the modern era, including the likes of Eyecatcher and Aunty Dot.
By Flemensfirth, out of a Saumarez mare, Magic Of Light is half-sister to the useful 2m4f chaser Sizing Platinum and the Grade 1-winning two-mile hurdler Pingshou, so it isn’t immediately obvious on pedigree that the eight-year-old would have the requisite stamina to see out the almost four-miles-three-furlongs of the Grand National.
See it out she did though, and in tremendous fashion.
Was she an unlucky loser last year?
Indeed, despite blundering badly at The Chair at the halfway stage of last season’s race, Magic Of Light (an unconsidered 66/1 shot) led from six out until the penultimate fence, and was still upsides Tiger Roll when she made a very bad mistake at the last.
That she stayed on again to close down the eventual winner to just under three lengths at the line was a magnificent effort, and it can be reasonably argued that had she not blundered so badly at the last she may have gone very close to denying Gordon Elliott’s superstar a second successive win the race.
She’s “bigger and stronger” now
Harrington’s mare looks as though she is being specifically trained to try and go one better in 2020 by her maestro of a handler. Last year she arrived at Aintree on the back of a busy campaign. This time it would not surprise if connections choose to race her a little more sparingly.
A 25/1* shot in the ante-post market for the big race, she recently repeated last year’s win in a Listed mares chase at Newbury, after which her regular rider, Robbie Power, observed: “She feels bigger and stronger this year and has been in unbelievable form since she came back in.”
Harrington could add another top prize to her collection
Jessica Harrington is that rare breed of a trainer who seems to find training Grade 1 winners over jumps, and Group 1 Flat winners coming to her with equal ease. Think of the likes of Alpha Centauri, Albigna, and Pathfork on the Flat, then recall great stars such as Moscow Flyer, Macs Joy, Jezki, Sizing John and Supasundae, among others over jumps.
She has a real chance of adding her name to the select list of Grand National-winning female trainers that thus far includes only Jenny Pitman, Venetia Williams, Sue Smith and Lucinda Russell.
It’s not always the case that a horse that puts up a big performance in the Grand National will go back and repeat the feat once again, but Magic Of Light, a strong, robust mare blessed with a surprising amount of stamina, has as good a chance as any of her sex in living memory of lifting the £1million race.
*All odds subject to change.