A Newmarket-based trainer is hopeful that her first runner in the world’s most famous jumps race will cope with the demands of the huge Aintree obstacles.
Le Reve, who clinched an impressive victory in the Betfred Masters Handicap Chase at Sandown in February, will be among the 40 horses taking part in this year’s Crabbie’s Grand National.
The progressive eight-year-old is trained by Lucy Wadham in a quiet and secluded spot at Moulton Paddocks, next to Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin operation.
On his participation in Saturday’s race, Wadham said: “I think Le Reve is tailor-made for the race.
“He stays very well and is very versatile when it comes to the ground, it’s just how he jumps the fences at Aintree.
“Sandown takes a bit of jumping, but obviously Aintree is completely different. I’m confident he will take to them.
“We felt it was a year too soon last year, but this season his preparation has gone well. He is entitled to improve a bit more from his last run.”
“We’ve been building him up gradually since Sandown. He did his last serious bit of work on Thursday and we were delighted with him.”
Le Reve stayed on strongly up the hill at Sandown, under Harry Skelton, to score by two-and-a-quarter lengths from Pete The Feat, who boosted the form by winning at Kelso later in the month.
Skelton will again partner the brown gelding, who was allotted a weight of 10st 8lb for the steeplechase showpiece.
Wadham said: “Harry is a fantastic jockey. It’s all about confidence and he’s gone from strength-to-strength on that score this season.
“He gave the horse a great ride at Sandown. He got him into a nice rhythm and jumped well.”
The likes of United, El Dancer, Le Reve and The Dark Lord have provided Wadham with her greatest moments as a trainer over the jumps.
But high-profile success with Lady Tiana, Dorcas Lane, Crystal Gal, Cassique Lady and Enforce on the flat prove that she is equally-astute in either sphere.
If successful at Aintree, she would become only the fourth female trainer to saddle a Crabbie’s Grand National winner following Jenny Pitman (Corbiere, 1983 and Royal Athlete, 1995), Venetia Williams (Mon Mome, 2009) and Sue Smith (Auroras Encore, 2013).
“It’s a great thrill to have a runner in the Grand National,” admitted Wadham.
“I’m very excited about it, but we’ve tried to approach it just like any other race. I’ve had a runner in the Foxhunters before but never in the Grand National. It’s a tough race but its what the racing game is all about.
“There are some very good horses taking part; you’ve got Gold Cup horses running in a handicap.”
The last horse from Newmarket to win the Grand National was Gregalach in 1929, although the great Golden Miller (1934) was trained close by in Cambridgeshire.
In the 1920s, no less than five winners hailed from Newmarket yards – Sergeant Murphy (1923), Double Chance (1925), Jack Horner (1926), Sprig (1927) and Gregalach (1929).
This year is the 169th running of the Crabbie’s Grand National and the first with the new starting time of 5.15pm.