Lots to ponder ahead of latest Aintree chapter
The Grand National at Aintree takes place on Saturday afternoon, with the Merseyside venue set to stage its marquee race in front of a packed house for the first time since 2019.
The missed National of 2020 and the deafening silence of Rachael Blackmore’s historic win 12 months ago will be forgotten when Aintree comes to life this week.
Ahead of the most iconic jumps race in the world, we ponder some of the possible plotlines for the 2022 Randox Grand National.
Rachael staying with the Times
Henry de Bromhead has confirmed the winning partnership from last time will be reunited at Aintree on Saturday with Blackmore set to ride Minella Times in the Randox Grand National for a second time, after she made headlines around the world on the JP McManus-owned runner last time around.
Minella Times will have top-weight in this year’s race, running off a 15lb higher rating than the one he was successful off last year, and his form coming into the defence of his crown is not convincing with a couple of incompletions this season.
His trainer is hopeful he’s going to shine in the spring again.
“Rachael will ride Minella Times and he’s back showing me all the right signs at home,” said the dual Gold Cup-winning trainer.
“Now, in saying that, I thought I had him back going into the Leopardstown race as well and he disappointed me, but he definitely seems to be back to himself this time.
“He loved it last year, but he’s obviously gone up a good bit in the ratings so it’s not going to be easy for him.”
Jacob sides with Good Boy Bobby
Daryl Jacob already knows what it takes to win this great race, having steered Neptune Collonges home in front back in 2012 for Paul Nicholls in one of the tightest finishes of the modern era.
Good Boy Bobby is one of four Grand National runners for leading owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede, for whom Jacob is retained rider.
The Nigel Twiston-Davies inmate got the nod for Jacob over Kildisart – Ben Pauling’s runner with winning form at Aintree.
“I’ve got to know Good Boy Bobby quite well in the last few years and his form is very consistent,” said Jacob.
“I won on him at Wetherby, he was second behind Aye Right in the Rehearsal at Newcastle and then he ground it out on very heavy ground back up at Wetherby [in the Rowland Meyrick].
“It was a tough decision, though, as Kildisart has won round Aintree and has been placed at the Cheltenham Festival.”
Henderson hopes for Caribean cruise
Jacob overlooked Caribean Boy, another in the two-tone green silks of Munir and Souede, but six-time champion trainer Nicky Henderson sees him as a realistic contender.
The Seven Barrows trainer saddled Zongalero to finish second in 1979 – his very first Grand National runner – but winning this great race has so far proved beyond Henderson, who remains without a National score in Britain or Ireland.
“He schooled over the National fences in Upper Lambourn last week and it went very well – he was really good,” Henderson said. “He’s always struck us as the right horse for this – he’s a big, strapping, long-striding bold jumper who does stay.
“We’ve had seconds and thirds and nearly ones with fallers on the second circuit when they might have been in very good positions.
“What’s really nice and good for everyone at our end is that we’re going into it this with a runner, which we haven’t had many of over the last few years, but a runner that I’d consider to be a realistic runner.”