Charlie McCann: Selections For The Grand National

The weights for the 2022 Randox Grand National were announced on Tuesday and I have already thrown three darts at the board in the quest to find the winner of the greatest horse race in the world.

Hat-trick seeking Tiger Roll was done few favours by the handicapper and it was no surprise to hear that owner Michael O’Leary has already decided that he will not run his 12-year-old at Aintree. We wrote last week when profiling Tiger Roll’s chance in the X-Country Chase at Cheltenham next month that the horse was at his peak in 2019 yet he would have been asked to race from a 2lbs higher mark in April. I’m not convinced that is right, but few will have any sympathy for his owner.

O’Leary’s pointless and petulant gesture in running Tiger Roll in the Grade 1 Betway Bowl rather than the National last year has backfired, although I did believe the BHA handicapper Martin Greenwood would relent to the tune of at least a couple more pounds.

Ireland saddled ten of the first eleven home in the race last year and two of my three to follow in 2022 are trained across the Irish Sea, but we start with a British challenger who could make history on April 9th.

Snow Leopardess (10st 3lbs): 10-y-old mare trained by Charlie Longsdon

The 2021 Grand National will always be remembered as the year that Rachel Blackmore became the first female jockey to ride the winner courtesy of Minella Times. Could 2022 go down in the history books as the year that a mare won the great race having previously taken two years off from the sport to give birth to a foal?

I am convinced the public will latch onto the prospect of a grey, almost white, mum flying over the National fences. Her trainer Charlie Longsdon said at the announcement of the weights on Tuesday:

“You certainly hope to get in being number 57 on the list as it is normally about 70-odd that gets in.

“We’ve got to keep our fingers crossed, but it is all very exciting. Running off 10st 3lb would be some weight, but it won’t be that unfortunately. She will still be under 11st though so it will still be a nice, light weight.

“Her story with her being a mum is the sort of story I can see people really latching on to over the next couple months. I can see people over the next couple of months talking about the Grand National runner with a child.”

Thirteen mares have won the Grand National but none for over 70 years – Nickel Coin was the last in 1951. Only three greys have won the race – The Lamb in 1868 and 1871, Nicolaus Silver in 1961 and Neptune Collonges in 2012.

I have closely followed the racing career of Snow Leopardess since she won the valuable Mares Handicap at Newbury in March 2017 although her chasing career has really taken off this season with wins at Bangor-on-Dee on her reappearance, Aintree over the National fences in the Becher Chase, and Exeter on Sunday when she powered home on her favoured soft ground having looked momentarily in trouble at the top of the straight.

She has won on good ground but there is no doubt that she revels in soft ground, and she is likely to carry a lovely racing weight of 10st 8lbs on the day if my calculations are correct – I feel Chris’s Dream will carry top-weight so the weights will rise 5lbs.

The Aintree executive will not allow the ground to be any faster than good to soft on the day unless it is an extreme period of dry and hot weather and good to soft or soft ground would be ideal for the mare.

Snow Leopardess is 16/1 with Paddy Power each way 5 places

Escaria Ten 10st 9lbs: 8-y-old gelding trained by Gordon Elliot

Escaria Ten has long been my fancy for the race and has been given a typical Irish preparation for the race.

I have thought him an ideal type for Aintree since finishing a close third in a top-class renewal of the 3m 6f NH Chase at Cheltenham last March when he had Snow Leopardess 14L further back in fourth. The grey mare will be 1lb worse off at Aintree.

The winner at the Festival was Galvin who is one of the market leaders for the Gold Cup and the runner up was Next Destination who I think would have won the Ladbroke Trophy but for injury back in December.

Escaria Ten has only had the one run so far this season when given a sighter in the Thyestes Chase and Elliot has said that will be his sole prep run for the race. That was his sixth start over fences – the minimum requirement to run in the race. Next stop Aintree.

Elliot has saddled two previous winners of the race Silver Birch (2007) and Tiger Roll (2018 & 2019), so he certainly knows what is required to win the race. Eight-year-olds have won four of the last six renewals and the only negative might be his lack of experience over the unique obstacles. He is likely to be well schooled over Aintree type fences back in Ireland, and if he gets over Bechers’ first time round then I think he will give Adrian Heskin a terrific ride.

Escaria Ten is 16/1 with bet365 each way 5 places

Burrows Saint 10st 13lbs: 9-y-old gelding with Willie Mullins

Burrows Saint finished fourth in the corresponding race 12 months ago and is 15lbs better off with winner Minella Times for the 17L he was behind the winner in April. The horse travelled like the winner for much of the race in 2021 but looked a non-stayer after crossing the Melling Road for the second time when going as well as any.

I appreciate that his stamina may well give way a second time, but he has a similar profile to the stable’s Hedgehunter who was running out of petrol when coming down at the last as an 8-y-old in 2004 before coming home clear of his field when a well backed favourite 12 months on. Hedgehunter remains Willie Mullins’ sole winner of the National and it is about time the legendary Irish handler doubled up.

Burrows Saint is likely to carry 11st 4lbs at Aintree, which is a slight concern, but he is a former winner of the Irish National (3m 6f) and should be nearing his peak. He could run out of petrol again 12 months on, but in Willie we trust!

Burrows Saint is 25/1 with 888sport 4 places and 20/1 with Betfred Non Runner No Bet