While its oftentimes the horses who garner the majority of the spotlight at the Grand National every year – a storyline just as intriguing is the elation and heartbreak experienced by winning and losing trainers.
This year will be no exception, and with multiple Hall of Fame trainers vying for either their maiden Grand National success or a win at the famed event for a first time in a number of years – the 2023 renewal is shaping up to be a captivating one for fans and pundits alike.
With that in mind, read on as we dissect the two trainers under the most pressure to triumph in National Hunt racing’s preeminent fixture taking place on April 15.
Whether it be his 73 Cheltenham Festival victories or his six champion trainer honours, Nicky Henderson is one of the most successful and recognisable trainers in the sport. His résumé speaks for itself – however – there is one accomplishment which eludes him – a Grand National winner.
His record at Aintree’s feature race is nothing short of dreadful – with the Seven Barrows trainer failing to reign supreme in the now £1,000,000 race despite having had 42 runners dating back to 1987.
The closest Henderson has come to securing a Grand National was with Zangalero and The Tseravich, both of whom finished runner up in their respective renewals. His chances of acquiring a maiden Grand National triumph rests on the shoulders of Grand National betting 50/1 shot Mister Coffey, whose form of late has been solid without being spectacular.
The positive Henderson can take away from Mister Coffey’s performances this season is that he’s placed in all three of his fixtures. However, he has given himself too much work to do up the straight in all three losses – therefore – if he can stay with the leaders as the field head into the turn at the upcoming Grand National, he may give some of the better-fancied thoroughbreds a run for their money late.
That’s easier said than done however, with this year’s entries including some incredibly talented horses in Corach Rambler, Gaillard Du Mesnil, Noble Yeats and Any Second Now to name a few.
Arguably the greatest National Hunt racing trainer of all time, Willie Mullins’ success will be extremely difficult to emulate for future trainers. Coming off the back of a fantastic 2023 Cheltenham Festival campaign, in which he picked up the meeting’s top trainer award for the fifth year running, you would think the Closutton-based trainer would be entering this month’s meet at Aintree playing with house money.
However, he will be under considerable pressure to deliver at the sport’s most famous event given his poor record there – which consists of only one win to date. That success came in 2005, when jockey Ruby Walsh won onboard Hedgehunter as a 7/1 favourite by 14 lengths from Royal Auclair.
For those following the Paddy Power Horse Racing markets, Mullins is expected to have five horses at this year’s renewal including Gaillard Du Mesnil (10/1), Mr Incredible (14/1), Capodanno (25/1), Carefully Selected (33/1) and Recite A Prayer (50/1).
While Mullins will be still be regarded as one of the greats if he were to never reign supreme in another Grand National – you get the impression that he’ll have a burning motivation to add at least one more triumph to his laundry list of accomplishments before he retires – and 2023 provides him with one of the best opportunities to do so in quite some time.
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