Grand National Preview: Poet on the Move

The Grand National may still be 40 runners over 30 hurdles, but it’s a very different race than it used to be.

The race is now shorter, the fences are considerably smaller and the level of training of the horses has improved a lot in recent years.

However, choosing the winner remains a challenge, particularly this year, as many horses have a real shot at winning the €600,000 first prize for connections.

JP McManus and Gigginstown House have won the last three renewals of the Grand National and with 11 of the 40 horses wearing their colours, there is a strong chance they will succeed again.

Times Minella

Hero of 12 months ago Minella Times might be 15 pounds taller and Tiger Roll may have retired, but the two powerhouse operations have a plethora of possibilities in what is a deep field.

However, it is on a winning trainer from 16 years ago that we pin our hopes on, with the Martin Brassil-trained Longhouse Poet (5.15) our top pick for what remains the best race in the world.

Quiet and unassuming, Brassil dispatched Numbersixvalverde to win here in 2006 and also saddled Double Seven to claim third place in 2014, his only other rider in the race.

Interestingly, his eight-year-old son took the same route as Numbersixvalverde and captured a Thyestes Chase at Gowran Park on his way to Liverpool.

That iconic Kilkenny race is a fantastic test for Aintree as it is a contest that requires solid jumps and huge stamina reserves to be successful.

Longhouse Poet is only a season two rookie and has a very light race, but has already shown that he enjoys a marathon chase, having also scalped Run Wild Fred in a Beginners’ Chase last year.

He also has a touch of class and competed in the Grade 1 novice hurdle and seems to ride any type of terrain and comes here having had a good cobweb hurdle run at Navan in February.

Ironically, Brassil’s close friend, Ted Walsh, might pose the biggest threat to Longhouse Poet.


Walsh’s Any Second Now was an extremely unlucky underdog 12 months ago when he rallied to finish third behind Minella Times.

He practically stopped walking when he collided with a falling horse on the first loop, but Mark Walsh was still able to mount a challenge despite losing over 20 lengths.

He is carrying much more weight than he was 12 months ago but he obviously has the ability and warmed up nicely with a gutsy win in Bobbyjo Chase at Fairyhouse.

It’s hard to see him end up broke for Walsh, who had success here 22 years ago with Papillon.

12 of the 15 finalists last season were trained in Ireland and it’s hard to see a local horse threatening the green team, who have won every renewal since 2017.

Fiddlerontheroof is a horse that could be involved for Colin Tizzard and Brendan Powell junior, whose sire Brendan senior won this race 34 years ago at Rhyme And Reason.

He is holding up well and has run some big races, finishing second to Monkfish at Cheltenham last year before going blind in the Ladbrokes Trophy when he was also second to Cloudy Glen.

He was a beaten favorite at Ascot in his most recent outing, but the suspicion is that he has been trained with this race in mind and a big race is expected for a yard that knows the time of day.

He will have the class to sleep with the leaders, which seems to be key to winning these days as very few horses have come from outside the leading pack to win of late.

The terrain at Aintree is still a bit of an unknown, with a lot of rain falling in recent days, which could suit the dour Death Duty.

Unlike our main selection, he is a horse with a lot of miles on the clock, but he has gotten a new life this season, winning a Grand National trial at Punchestown before putting in a good race at Ultima at Cheltenham.

He is a horse that won a Grade 1 over hurdles in his heyday and looks very well treated in this race at just 10st7lbs.

He’ll stick around when others have had enough and as long as the field isn’t too lively, he’s very capable of making a spot for Gordon Elliott and Gigginstown.

My National: Brian Flanagan

  1. Poet of the longhouse
  2. Whenever
  3. Fiddler on the Roof
  4. death duty

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