Grand National - At The Races

3 things we learned from the Grand National

  • Saturday 14 April 2018
  • News


It is 11 years since Silver Birch provided a fresh-faced and little-known 29-year-old named Gordon Elliott with victory in the world's most famous steeplechase. Wind the clock forward a decade and the master of Cullentra is now firmly established among the training elite and looks well placed to be crowned champion in his homeland for the first time later this month, likely toppling the all-conquering Willie Mullins. In the last five weeks Elliott has taken the top trainer award at the Cheltenham Festival, won the Irish Grand National for the first time with General Principle - pipping a Mullins runner by a nose - and claimed Aintree glory for a second time with Tiger Roll. The frighteningly powerful Elliott juggernaut continues to gather pace and shows no signs of letting up any time soon.


Between them Elliott and Mullins had 15 winners at the Cheltenham Festival last month and the raiding party claimed no less than 17 of the 28 races in the Cotswolds overall. The Irish domination continued in the Grand National, with Elliott's Tiger Roll and the Mullins-trained Pleasant Company separated by a head and followed in by the winner's veteran stablemate Bless The Wings and Tony Martin's Cheltenham Gold Cup third Anibale Fly. The finish provides further evidence that current balance of power in National Hunt racing very much lies across the Irish Sea.


The wait for a female jockey to win the Grand National goes on. Katie Walsh, who achieved the highest-ever finish by a female rider when third aboard Seabass in 2012, was joined by National debutants Rachael Blackmore and Bryony Frost in this year's race and all looked to have sound claims of being involved in the finish. Blackmore's chance went when Alpha Des Obeaux fell jumping the Chair, while Walsh and Baie Des Iles came home last of 12 finishers. Frost, who has enjoyed a breakthrough season which has included a Grade One success on Black Corton, fared comfortably the best of the trio aboard Milansbar. Neil King's charge raced prominently and with real zest for much of the way and while he was unable to throw down a serious challenge from the home turn, he boxed on admirably to finish fifth. Yet again, Frost proved herself more than capable of doing the job given the chance.