Henry de Bromhead achieved a rare double in the National Hunt last season, winning both the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Grand National. Minella Indo and Minella Times were victorious in the Gold Cup and Grand National respectively as Jack Kennedy and then Rachael Blackmore rode their respective charges to victory.
The National was a historic triumph for Blackmore as she became the first female jockey to win the event, while De Bromhead chalked up victories in both elite events for the first time.
The Irishman has already ticked off the Gold Cup for the second year in a row as A Plus Tard and Blackmore stormed to a dominant victory at Cheltenham Festival.
He will now be looking for a similar performance from Minella Times as he aims to join Tiger Roll to win successive Nationals in the modern era of horse racing. Minella Times is backed at 16/1 in the latest Grand National odds to win the event for a successive year, although it will be a challenge based on his current form ahead of the event.
Last season Minella Times went into the National on the back of three strong performances in the National Hunt.
He won his opening race of the campaign in the Southampton Goodwill Plate Handicap Chase at Listowel before recording second-place finishes at the Paddy Power Chase and the Leopardstown Handicap Chase to send him into the National with momentum. He duly delivered with a fine run as Blackmore timed his surge to perfection to pull away from the field to defeat his stable-mate Balko Des Flos by a comfortable margin.
The Irish thoroughbred has been in poor form since his triumph at Aintree, beginning with a concerning fall in the John Durkan Memorial Punchestown Chase. He was not expected to make an impact as a 66/1 outsider, but he was off the pace in the contest before he fell three fences from the end.
Fortunately, Minella Times was okay along with jockey Derek O’Connor, but it appears to have knocked the horse out of rhythm. Even with Blackmore in the saddle, he was off the pace in the Leopardstown Handicap Chase and was pulled up three fences before the end of the contest. As a result, there is not a great deal of momentum to take the horse into the defense of his Grand National crown, despite the confidence of De Bromhead.
The Grand National is unlike any race in the world and the form book can go out the window. Any Second Now and Delta Work are leading the challenge to knock Minella Times off his perch, and the threat of the latter is a concern for De Bromhead.
Delta Work ended the reign of Tiger Roll in the Cross Country Chase at Cheltenham Festival in the great champion’s final outing. Having taken the scalp of one National winner already this season, Delta Work certainly has the potential to overcome another. Blackmore and Minella Times are going to dig deep to hand De Bromhead another famous Gold Cup and Grand National double in 2022.