MINELLA Times will spearhead a sextet of J.P. McManus runners in the Grand National at Aintree on Saturday and, while I anticipate a bold show from Henry de Bromhead’s defending champion, I will be looking elsewhere amongst the famous green and gold silks for the winner.
Enjoy D’allen is a recent recruit to the McManus battalions with this race in mind so I am not alone in thinking the eight-year-old possesses the necessary credentials to prevail on Saturday.
Like last year’s winner, the son of Network was placed in the Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown’s Christmas meeting, showing he is at home in a big field.
Ciaran Murphy’s gelding clocked a slightly faster time-figure at the Dublin venue when compared to his third in the Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse showing he has improved for being a year older.
Any Second Now was the unlucky horse of last year’s renewal given the ground he lost when hampered by a faller on the first circuit. The 10-year-old showed his wellbeing at Fairyhouse on his latest outing and looks sure to go well again for Ted Walsh.
Also on my shortlist are Santini, Fiddlerontheroof and Longhouse Poet. Santini is arguably the class act of the race having finished second in a Gold Cup and has looked revitalised by the switch to Polly Gundry.
The 10-year-old is an excellent jumper and is at his best with ease in the ground.
If the ground is no worse than good to soft, then Fiddlerontheroof must enter calculations.
A fine second to Monkfish in the Brown Advisory Chase earns Colin Tizzard’s gelding the highest rating of the field and I would expect improvement on his Ascot showing as he was never travelling on the soft ground.
Finally, Longhouse Poet was a good winner of the Thyestes Chase which I have the fastest handicap chase time this season on either side of the Irish Sea.
The positive for the son of Yeats is he has won both of his chases over three miles-plus although he disappointed on his most recent run over hurdles at Navan.
1. Enjoy D’allen
2. Any Second Now