The dust may have already settled on the iconic Prestbury Park concourses after the recent renewal of the Cheltenham Festival, but the upcoming Grand National Festival — due to take place at Aintree from 7th-9th April — will give fans of National Hunt racing the perfect excuse to shake their Festival blues and get back to doing what they love — studying the form cards and scouring the horse racing odds.
Of course, when it comes to making a selection for the National itself, everyone has their own ways of doing things. Novice bettors, who only have a flutter on the marathon race once a year, will often look out for their favourite colours in the jockey’s silks or their favourite number, while the more experienced punters will go much more in-depth — analysing weight, form, ratings, age and many other things.
The person in the saddle can also prove decisive for some in the selection process, and while the jockeys are yet to be confirmed at the time of writing, that’s what we are going to focus on now. So, without further ado, read on as we take a look at some of the potential riders for the big guns.
Rachael Blackmore – Minella Times
Where better to start than with the defending champion, Rachael Blackmore? The 32-year-old became the first female rider to win the National last year, impressively romping home on Minella Times, and she’ll take her rightful place back in the saddle of the Henry de Bromhead-trained horse on April 9th — hoping to record another monumental victory on the racing results today page.
Unable to finish a race thus far this season, falling on his reappearance in the Punchestown Chase and pulling up at Leopardstown, Minella Times defending his title certainly doesn’t look convincing.
Paul Townend – Burrows Saint
Paul Townend and Willie Mullins set the Cheltenham Festival alight in March, with the jockey riding five of the Leading Trainer’s record-breaking 10 winners as he secured the Top Jockey accolade for a second time since taking over from the retired Ruby Walsh as the Closutton camp’s No.1 rider.
It’s hard to see the duo tasting similar success at Aintree next weekend though, with Burrows Saint, who hasn’t won a race since Blackmore was in the saddle back in December 2019, a general 20/1 shot in the Grand National ante-post market.
Davy Russell – Delta Work
A two-time Grand National-winning jockey, Davy Russell will be looking for his maiden victory in the race without his trusty partner and fan favourite Tiger Roll. They won the race back-to-back in 2018 and 2019, of course, but never got the opportunity to bid for an historic hat-trick attempt.
Instead, Russell will likely look to extend his personal record to three wins in the saddle of Delta Work — who just so happens to be the horse that denied the Tiger his swansong in the Cross Country Chase at Cheltenham. The Gordon Elliott-trained horse, who is also owned by Gigginstown House Stud, is the second favourite at 8/1.
Patrick Mullins, the son of the aforementioned Willie, will likely take the ride of favourite Any Second Now for Ted Walsh, while Jack Kennedy, Delta Work’s usual rider, could take the reigns of 10/1 shot Escaria Ten.