The Grand National is the most revered prize in National Hunt racing. Some big names have failed to win it, but its magic remains as a race which can be won by yards of any size. The following quartet are looking to upset the established names in the business in the 2022 renewal.
Enjoy D’allen (Ciaran Murphy)
One of the most notable chances for the smaller yards is ENJOY D’ALLEN, currently within the top five in the market in places.
Though owned by one of racing’s powerhouses in J.P.McManus, his trainer, Ciaran Murphy, has only had a licence since last season, and has trained only six winners over jumps in his entire career and 15 across all codes in total. Two of those victories came courtesy of Enjoy D’allen.
Murphy sent two across to test the water in the Foxhunters, with both Michael’s Pick and Down The Highway finishing tailed off on Thursday. They were his first runners on the flat or over jumps in six days, though the previous one was a 50/1 winner at Dundalk.
It would be a fairytale success for him, though maybe not as Hollywood as it would be for some. That is because Enjoy D’allen is a smart horse, especially voer staying trips. He is no rank outsider, with a third in the Irish National last season to his name, as well as another top performance in the Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas.
He was third that day, with last year’s winner Minella Times emerging from that contest too. Training’s big boys better beware.
Santini (Polly Gundry)
SANTINI himself would be a romantic winner having been so maligned despite a relatively successful career. However, were he still with Nicky Henderson, he would be representing a behemoth of the game.
Instead, he was switched to Polly Gundry’s yard before he started his 2021/22 National Hunt season and has returned to something nearing his old self. A runner-up in the 2020 Cheltenham Gold Cup, he has substantial form in the book at a top level.
However, he lost his way last season, pulling up in the same showpiece, but three run at Prestbury Park for Gundry have been rewarding. He was second in the Cotswold Chase before a respectable eighth back in the Gold Cup and has slipped to a tempting mark of 153 given stamina was always his strong suit.
As for Gundry, she has trained a total of 43 winners under rules, three of those coming this term. Then again, Santini is a class above any horse she has trained previously, with his runner-up finish in January earning her winnings beyond those which she accrued across seven entire seasons.
Could the Devonshire air sweeten up Santini for this test? If it does, it will have been a masterful training performance by Gundry.
Freewheelin Dylan (Dermot A McLoughlin)
It would almost be greedy for FREEHWEELIN DYLAN to emerge victorious in the Grand National. Unlike every other human/equine combination on this list, he and Dermot McLoughlin have already had a big day in the spotlight.
The ten-year-old was a 150/1 hero in the Irish National last season. As stunned as the racing public were, his owner revealed that she had been much more bullish as Freewheelin Dylan made all from the front.
His jumping and staying power could stand him in very good stead here. He has only fallen twice in his career over fences, with one of those coming over the cross country course at Cheltenham last November.
McLoughlin meanwhile, though nowhere near as small as the aforementioned duo, has only ever trained two winners in Britain, while his 13 successes in Ireland this term represent a career best haul. He is still shy of 100 wins as a trainer having taken out a licence in 2010.
Make no mistake, therefore, that this would be a significant underdog story. A National double in the space of 12 months would be an achievement even the biggest names would envy.
Domaine De L’Isle (Sean Curran)
Sneaking in towards the bottom of the weights is DOMAINE DE L’ISLE for trainer Sean Curran.
A dual purpose handler, he is slightly more prolific with his horses on the flat, having trained double figures for winners four times within a calendar year, and already has six to his name in 2022. Over jumps, he has surpassed ten victoires only once, in the 2009/10 season.
Indeed, he did not even continue his licence between 2016 to 2018 and did not immediately hit the ground running on his return. However, the good times may be just around the corner for him after his comeback, with this nine-year-old one of his stable stars.
He secured back-to-back triumphs at Kempton and Cheltenham, the latter over 3m2f, last spring and is now back down to that last winning mark. However, he has largely been uncompetitive since, though did run a decent race to be fourth in the Becher Chase behind Snow Leopardess.
There was little sign of him in the Eider Chase at Newcastle, but he would not be without a squeak if putting it all together.