Racing: Mitchell's National plan rooted in rugged turf

Depending on conditions, Paul Nicholls will run up to seven horses in the John Smith's Grand National on Saturday. If Ned Mitchell did the same, his Co Limerick stables would be left just about empty. Precisely because of its fearsome ups and downs, however, there is no more level playing field than Aintree, and the champion trainer-elect would not presume to beat Garvivonnian with any one of his seven. As Mitchell himself said of the place yesterday: "Everyone's equal at that game. It's a great leveller, isn't it?"

He should know. He has run two horses at Aintree. The first was Seeandem, whose death at Becher's Brook 17 years ago contributed to the taming of the old fences. The other one is Garvivonnian, who was sent over on reconnaissance back in November. He sailed over the ditch that claimed Seeandem, landed in front, was headed halfway up the run-in, and rallied bravely for a narrow success.

Though the race nowadays demands slightly less idiosyncratic talents than was once the case, his proven aptitude for the course will qualify Garvivonnian for many shortlists over the coming days. As a dour galloper who loves testing ground, moreover, he is well prepared for the most extreme test of his career.

He warmed up at Fairyhouse last time by chasing home Forget The Past, who then went to Cheltenham and ran third in the Gold Cup itself. Hedgehunter became hot favourite to repeat his National success of last year when finishing seven lengths in front of Forget The Past at Cheltenham, but he must give Garvivonnian 18lb.

Mitchell is a profoundly retiring man, prone to deep, evasive chuckles, but there was no dissembling when he assessed his horse's condition. "He's right," he said firmly. "Never been fitter. There's a good all-weather we can use up the road from here, and we took him there this morning. He worked alone - we could never get another horse into the lorry with him and hope to get it out alive. That's the kind of horse he is. He's very hardy. The other horse we took to Liverpool was a bit of a coward, really. But this one . . .

"Everyone could see how he took to the place in November. Ruby Walsh rode him in Tralee a couple of years ago and he said he'd be a real type for those fences. He's always been an athletic jumper and this race has been on the cards for a long time now. You can take it that he's ready."

Mitchell was seated in an immaculate little sitting room in an immaculate little house, built 20 years ago on family farmland. On a blustery, washed out day of high cloud and spring sunshine, an outcrop of gorse and rock hid a spreading horizon of hills. "We still have a few cattle," he said. "But farming's gone to the dogs. We keep about 10 horses. They've always been in the family, horses - my father trained a bit, rode in point-to-points. He was a knowledgeable man. We have a bit of steep land around the place, we can take this horse somewhere different every day. He'd never do the same thing twice."

In his sparse way, Mitchell clearly knows how to make the most of nugatory resources. "This horse's dam cost IR£500 as a foal and we won the mares' final at Punchestown with her," he said. "But then she got a leg, so they went breeding with her. The sire was standing just up the road from here for 300 quid. Between them they got Garvivonnian, and he's the fifth horse we have had to win 10 races."

A couple of years ago Mitchell sent a filly up to the Curragh and won a handicap under the noses of all the top Flat yards. The following weekend she won a £50,000 race at Leopardstown. But his fatalistic approach to what might prove the defining moment of his career reflects his indifference to the notion that he might have justified greater ambition before now. "We've always just drifted along, never wanted more than a handful of horses," he said. "We're happy with our lot. You take the good with the bad, because you will always have more bad than good. There's no point getting overexcited. For all we know, he might get brought down at the first."

Chris McGrath

Nap: Easy Air (Lingfield 4.10)

NB: Everyman

(Lingfield 2.40)

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballGunners confirm signing from Manchester United
Sport
footballStriker has moved on loan for the remainder of the season
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
New Articles
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
News
The five geckos were launched into space to find out about the effects of weightlessness on the creatures’ sex lives
i100
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
News
i100
Life and Style
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside
lifeDavid Sedaris: What I learnt from my fitness tracker about the world
Arts and Entertainment
Word master: Self holds up a copy of his novel ‘Umbrella’
booksUnlike 'talented mediocrity' George Orwell, you must approach this writer dictionary in hand
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Implementation Consultant (VB,C#, SQL, Java, Eclipse, integ

£40000 - £50000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: SQL Impl...

SQL Technical Implementation Consultant (Java, BA, Oracle, VBA)

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: SQL Technical ...

Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, Fidessa, Equities)

£85000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, ...

Lead C# Developer (.Net, nHibernate, MVC, SQL) Surrey

£55000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Lead C# Develo...

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering