Aintree 2021 – Grand National eye-catchers
We all saw Rachael Blackmore and Minella Times stealing the show in the 2021 Grand National at Aintree.
Racing’s newest superstar gave the winner a perfect ride in the race and came home a deserving winner, becoming the first female rider to take victory in the Grand National.
It was a race dominated by Irish challengers, with ten of the first 11 finishers hailing from the Emerald Isle.
Outside of the winner, however, were there any eye-catching performances from horses that might return to Merseyside for another crack at the prize in the future? Here’s a look at three that might fit that billing.
Any Second Now
The Ted Walsh-trained third was the most obvious ‘unlucky loser’ in the race. Mark Walsh (no relation to the trainer) had his mount in a good position through the early stages of the race, alongside Minella Times for much of it. When Double Shuffle came down at the 12th fence, he badly hampered Any Second Now as he bundled down to his left.
It could just as easily have been Minella Times he interfered with, and there was no doubting Any Second Now lost considerable ground and his rider would have had to use up significant energy in regaining that momentum in order to be challenging for the lead going to three out.
Ultimately, that spent petrol meant Any Second Now couldn’t match the front pair once the jumping was completed and he was around eight lengths behind in third at the line.
How close might he have got had he not suffered that mid-race misfortune? That’s an unknown but it’s very likely he’d have had a bigger say in the finish. He’ll be ten next year and still in the prime of his career, Grand National-wise. Ted Walsh has suggested the long-term aim will be to come back to Aintree in 12 months for another crack at this prize.
At seven years old and in what was only his eighth start over fences, connections of Farclas would surely have been thrilled to see him finishing fifth under Jack Kennedy. He came into the race having finished second to The Shunter at the Cheltenham Festival over 2m4½f and was racing beyond three miles for the first time in his life.
He was mid-pack for much of the race and had a lot of ground to make up with the principles in the closing stages – too much to be considered a realistic challenger at any point in the final quarter of the race.
He stayed on to finish fifth in the Gigginstown silks and it was encouraging from him. Given we’ve not seen a seven-year-old winner of the Grand National since before the Second World War, Farclas clearly has time on his side and he’ll have garnered lots from running into the frame on his first taste of the Aintree test.
Racing close to the pace has become almost a necessity in the Grand National and, certainly, being no worse than mid-division in the early exchanges seems paramount these days.
Mister Malarky was in the right spot over the first three fences and rider Jonjo O’Neill would have been relatively happy with his start, but they were inconvenienced by the unseating of Robbie Power from the mare Magic Of Light and shuffled backwards in the pack.
‘Needing a bit of luck’ is a phrase often bandied around in terms of winning this race but perhaps more pertinent is simply avoiding misfortune in the race. Minella Times didn’t require any luck to win, he simply avoided any of the trouble and did his business in style under Rachael Blackmore.
Mister Malarky’s chance was compromised badly early on and it’s been that sort of season for the soon-to-retire Colin Tizzard. His son, Joe, will inherit the license at his Dorset base and Mister Malarky is one that may return to Aintree and shape much better in the Grand National – with ‘a bit of luck’, of course!