Nassalam trainer buoyed by forecast rain with National course heavy in places

The prospect of a rare Grand National on testing ground became apparent on Tuesday after conditions were revealed to be soft, heavy in places on the famous track at Aintree and with an unsettled forecast in place before the big race on Saturday week.

It has been unusual for the National to take place on soft or heavy going, with only four instances in the last quarter of a century. Tiger Roll’s narrow first win in 2018 was just the second on heavy ground this century, following on from Red Marauder’s 2001 victory when he was just one of four rivals to complete the course. Rule The World (2016) and Earth Summit (1998) both won on soft ground, but the majority of Nationals in the last 25 years have been run on good to soft or good going.

However, that looks increasingly this year unlikely following clerk of the course Sulekha Varma’s update on Tuesday, 11 days before Corach Rambler bids to win back-to-back Nationals in the £1 million race over four miles and two and a half furlongs.

"The heavy ground is the lower section from Foinavon round to the back of Valentine's," said Varma. "The sun is shining right now but the end of this week has the potential to turn quite wet and the forecasters are saying it will continue to be unsettled. It sounds like we can expect some level of showers most days."

Aintree has received 22mm of rain in the last week, with the ground described as soft on the Mildmay and hurdles course.

One trainer who is relishing the possibility of testing ground in the Randox-backed National is Gary Moore, who is set to run Nassalam.

The seven-year-old made light work of extreme conditions when running away with the Welsh Grand National by 34 lengths at Chepstow in December, following up his trial victory on heavy ground.

Nassalam, who is available at 40-1 generally for the Grand National, was last seen being pulled up in the Gold Cup at Cheltenham, after which Moore questioned why he had not dropped down the ratings.

"We're very happy with him and it's still the plan to go to Aintree," said the trainer. "If the ground is going to be heavy, it's only going to increase his chances as he won on bottomless ground at Chepstow.

"Slow ground will definitely suit him and hopefully not so many of the others. He wasn't stopping when he won the Welsh National so we're confident he should have no issues stepping up again in trip.

"It's obviously a completely different race to the Welsh National with horses who have been placed in a Gold Cup, and he's got to give them plenty of weight, which as far as I'm concerned is madness."

The Grand National market is headed by last year's winner Corach Rambler, while there has been a move for last year's Irish National winner I Am Maximus, who is now the clear second-favourite with most bookmakers. The eight-year-old, who was last seen beating Vanillier by 14 lengths on testing ground in the Grade 3 Bobbyjo Chase at Fairyhouse, was cut to 9-1 (from 10) by Coral on Monday.

"Having won an Irish Grand National and being trained by Willie Mullins, I Am Maximus has been a leading contender for Aintree glory all season, and he's currently the closest market rival to last year's winner Corach Rambler," said the firm's David Stevens.

Randox Grand National (Aintree, April 13)
Coral: 4 Corach Rambler, 9 I Am Maximus, 10 Vanillier, 12 Panda Boy, 14 Kitty's Light, Mahler Mission, Meetingofthewaters, 16 Minella Indo, Noble Yeats, 20 bar