Minella Times romped to glory in the 2021 Grand National at Aintree as part of a 1-2-3-4-5 for Irish-trained horses. While the victory was another brutal blow for the Brits after a bruising Cheltenham Festival, Paddy Power ambassador Ruby Walsh believes the result is proof that dour stayers’ chances of success in the race have diminished as a result of changes to the fences and course over the years.
Speaking on the latest episode of our From The Horse’s Mouth podcast, our resident jockey-turned-pundit outlined why the race now requires a need for speed and attempted to explain the poor performance from the British challengers.
You can listen to the full show BELOW which includes antepost tips from Ruby and Paddy Power trader Frank Hickey for the upcoming Punchestown Festival.
Minella Times had been placed over two-and-a-half miles and won over two miles six furlongs, Balko Des Flos was a previous Ryanair Chase winner and Any Second Now had won over two miles twice. The more you look at it you do need a little bit more speed these days. Tiger Roll in his younger days was a Triumph Hurdle winner. Short of form, it will definitely be coming into my calculations as well.
Aintree has evolved with times and therefore the race has evolved. There’s no doubt it’s not the race Red Rum won but it hasn’t been that race for many years. The race Mr Frisk won in 1997 was not the same that Papillon even won [in 2000]. The course has always been modified and it has changed.
It’s still a wonderful race to watch with 40 horses heading off to those green fences but you need pace because the race doesn’t now slow until Becher’s Brook when the field packs up. You need to have the pace to go to Becher’s and the dour stayers don’t have that pace.
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It used to slow down at the third fence because of loose horses and the size of the fences. It gave the slower horses a chance to get on their feet after going only four furlongs and now they’re being dragged the best part of a mile and it’s too hard work for the slower horses.
Whatever way you look at it there was 40 runners in the race and 18 were Irish. By my calculations, 60 per cent of the Irish horses that went to the start finished and 14 per cent of the English horses finished the race. That’s a worrying stat.
When Kauto Star won the Gold Cup in 2007 he was rated 179 and two years later when he won the King George VI Chase he was rated 191. I rode him and I don’t think he was a pound better horse when he was rated 191 than he was when he was rated 179 yet there was a 12 pound hike in the ratings. I think that has been reflected forever more back down through every grade of horse in the UK.
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