Grand National 2017: It may not be Brexit, but the English vs Irish battle lives on at Aintree thanks to Rogue Angel

The Irish big guns may have swerved Aintree after a handicap row, but in Rogue Angel and Cause of Causes a thrilling race lies in store in the Grand National

Charlie Atkin
Friday 07 April 2017 15:51
Comments
Cause of Causes (pictured) will be in the mix for the National but the Irish challenge comes from Rogue Angel
Cause of Causes (pictured) will be in the mix for the National but the Irish challenge comes from Rogue Angel

International diplomacy is hard.

As the UK threatens war on Spain and pink passports, so British racing has sparred frostily with their Irish counterparts.

“What I'd call the National now is a pre-Brexit, post-Brexit handicap,” railed Eddie O’Leary, prominent manager and brother to Ryanair boss Michael. Accusations of what amounted to a handicapping ‘tax’ led that outfit to withdraw their most prominent horses from the Grand National as last year’s trophy still glittered in their cabinet.

The debate continued into the Cheltenham Festival, yet such was the Irish dominance over the week’s handicaps and the festival itself the system began to appear if anything lenient.

You won't see Theresa May sharing a drink with Enda Kenny after conceding defeat, but that's precisely what many British racegoers jovially did with their Irish counterparts after Cheltenham.

Whatever political analogy they might use next, the O’Learys and Gigginstown will still be no less determined to record back to back wins in the National and appear to have left some live chances still in the race.

Among the 40 horses tackling 30 fences and the marathon distance of over four miles are two former Irish Grand National winners, one of which has been particularly well supported in recent days - Rogue Angel.

Trained by the winner of last year’s renewal, Mouse Morris, the horse has shown little since winning the Irish equivalent in 2016. The impression is that everything has been building towards Saturday though, with Rule The World putting some quiet performances behind him when winning last year too. Sneaking in near the bottom of the handicap, any hope is supported by the fact jockey Bryan Cooper has plumped for this horse from a choice of five runners.

One that will come in for plenty of support from both sides of the Irish Sea is three-time Cheltenham Festival winner Cause of Causes. After a mightily impressive performance in the Cross Country Chase, the horse is officially ‘well in’; his place in the handicap confirmed before that win and not adjusted since.

In the saddle is Jamie Codd, whose amateur tag does him a disservice considering the quality of his riding. Two years older than when first contesting these fences, the Gordon Elliott trained gelding’s season spent jumping cross country obstacles should make him much more comfortable this time around.

Jamie Codd on Cause Of Causes (2nd L) will offer an attractive option (Getty)

For a while the most prominent Irish contender in the betting market, Cause of Causes’ fancied contenders largely come from Britain’s shores. Aintree’s local Liverpool Football Club fans will be torn between those vying for favouritism, namely Definitly Red and Vieux Lion Rouge, while anyone related to a namesake of One For Arthur won’t find odds much larger.

All three have won significant trials over the course of this season but it’s the latter that is fancied to see the fourth woman ever train a Grand National winner in Lucinda Russell. The horse ran close over the esoteric fences earlier this season and has only improved since. Jockey Derek Fox makes his comeback from injury in the nick of time for the Scottish-based horse, who is expected to give his showing on any ground.

A few years back, being the younger side of 10 may have been a concern, yet recent winners have bucked those trends after the victories of Many Clouds (eight) and Rule The World (nine). With each weight individually assigned and often compressed in order to attract higher quality horses, those at the top of the racecard have also become more appealing (again Many Clouds who carried 11 stone and nine pounds).

The race has certainly changed in the last few years, with adjustments to the handicap, entry criteria and the jumps themselves to name a few. The spectacle of the race remains unique though and no one can begrudge any winner their deserved acclaim.

As the dust settles on the race, with betting slips torn or redeemed, above all racing fans will be hoping for the safe return of all its competitors. Racing can’t shy away from the reality of its risk and adaptations to the race have seen no equine deaths from this contest since 2012. Long may that continue.

Tips

One For Arthur 14/1

Cause of Causes 14/1

Rogue Angel 25/1

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in