Grand National Preview Part 1: An Expert Insight Q&A – Smith, Sherwood, Mullins & Fox

April 6, 2018 News

NEXT Saturday the most iconic race in Britain, and perhaps the world, takes place at Aintree as 40 horses line up for the Randox Health Grand National.

It is the one race everyone wants to win – and wants to back the winner of – so what better way to try and do that by than speaking to those previously successful in the race?

We have spoken to four people associated with some of the most recent winners to find out how they won the Grand National and what they fancy for this year’s contest.

You have won the Grand National, so tell us what does a horse need to be successful over those famous Aintree fences?

Derek Fox, rider of 2017 winner One For Arthur: They have to be a good jumper as they need to have scope to get over fences, but also be clever enough to get in close. They have to be able to relax – you wouldn’t want something that’s too freegoing. Class and the ability to stay well is something you obviously want to have as well

David Mullins, rider of 2016 winner Rule The World: They need to have a nice weight, which is anything around 11st or under really. They also have to jump well and be very lucky.

Oliver Sherwood, trainer of 2015 winner Many Clouds: Bravery and a lot of guts. You also need a lot of class these days to win the race. It’s not so much of a lottery anymore.

Sue Smith, trainer of 2013 winner Auroras Encore: They need plenty of bravery and a lot of talent. Stamina is key, it really is, and a good attitude is something that helps a huge amount.

What do you remember of the race the year you won it?

Fox: The first circuit went very fast. It was all a bit of a blur and I was just trying to survive and tip away really. The pace settled down after that first circuit and I could ride more of a race and be aware of who was around me and how well they were or weren’t going.

Mullins: I bounced out handy, as his owner Michael O’Leary likes his horses ridden, and was alongside stablemate First Lieutenant. He fell at the third and I felt quite alone at that point. Luckily, I was back into a rhythm after that and avoiding the loose horses. He went well for most of the second circuit but busted the fourth-last and I wasn’t too sure what might happen after that.

Sherwood: Before the race I didn’t think he was ready for it as he disappointed us in the Gold Cup. As the race went off I just wanted him to come home in one piece, but after he’d jumped three or four fences you could see he’d really taken to it. He was then left in front when The Druids Nephew fell five out and I actually turned my back on the race after the last and my friend told me what was happening and when he’d passed the line in front.

Smith: He was always travelling within himself and going so well the whole way. He jumped brilliantly and it was so exciting to watch – and pretty nerve-racking as well!

And when did you actually think you were going to win the race?

Fox: It’s hard to be specific as you never really think it’s won until you’ve passed the line. I thought after I jumped the Canal Turn and the four fences down the side that I was going really well. It was starting to come right for me at that point so I was getting excited.

Mullins: Gilgamboa went past me like the winner four out but he just didn’t stay. I went back past him and just tried to get a lead to the last. When I got to The Elbow I knew I’d win the race.

Sherwood: Only when I was told he’d won! I’d had a terrible record in the race prior to Many Clouds and was counting the fences down to the end to wait for whatever happened.

Smith: Three out you could see that he was still going very well. It was at that point that I started to think he could do it and he jumped so well we knew he had a great chance then.

What did winning the Grand National actually feel like?

Fox: It was an absolutely unbelievable feeling and a dream come true. When you’re small it’s all you want to happen so for it to actually come about is unreal. It still doesn’t feel completely real even now.

Mullins: You don’t ever let yourself think about it until after the line. You tell yourself not to stand up before the line, not to start celebrating or do anything stupid like looking back. After the line it’s an incredible release and a brilliant feeling.

Sherwood: Complete and utter exhilaration. I almost broke down with the sheer emotion of it all. My one regret from the day was that I didn’t see my wife Tarnya until much later in the day until after all the TV and media commitments had been completed.

Smith: It’s just real excitement and a lot of relief that you’ve done it too. You’re also very thankful that everyone is back in one piece and the plan has come together.

Finally, who would you most like to represent you in next week’s Grand National?

Fox: It looks an open race this year and there doesn’t appear to be anything head and shoulders above the others, but the one I like is Seeyouatmidnight. His third in the Coral Scottish Grand National last year was a brilliant run, and while he’s not perhaps had the ideal preparation this season, he has a lot in his favour as he has class, stays and jumps well. Another that catches my eye in The Dutchman if he comes back to form.

Mullins: I think Total Recall has a great chance. I rode him in the Gold Cup and he’d have been third if he hadn’t fallen. He’s got a fair bit of weight in the Grand National, but he’s very classy and I’d say he’s a good 6lb well-in for the race. I’d love to have the ride on him.

Sherwood: Prior to his run in the Grand National Trial at Haydock I’d been a big fan of Blaklion. I was a little disappointed with him that day, but he’s had a wind operation since then and he’s a tough little bugger. You don’t become a bad horse overnight, so I’ll take him.

Smith: We’re hoping to run three in the race this year. I Just Know will definitely get in the race and has all the credentials to win the race as he jumps and travels well, plus he has a great attitude to the game. I think he’ll get the trip too. Vintage Clouds is an out-and-out stayer, so you’d think the race would be right up his street, although I’m not sure the same can be said of Delusionofgrandeur. His best chance would be if the ground dried up.