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De Bromhead hopes Blackmore and Minella Times overcome weighty National issue
Blackmore and Minella Times have a huge challenge ahead of them in tomorrow’s Grand National.

HENRY DE BROMHEAD and Rachael Blackmore may have had, in the former’s words, “plenty of tough moments” this season, but also some magical ones and Saturday may bring another if Minella Times wins a second straight Grand National at Aintree.

De Bromhead, who also saddles outsider Poker Party, acknowledged to AFP that Blackmore and Minella Times have a huge challenge ahead of them in the world’s greatest steeplechase.

He has been allocated 11 stone 10 pounds (74.39 kilogrammes) due to his victory last year. No winner has carried as much weight since the legendary Red Rum had 12 stone in the second of his three victories in 1974.

The de Bromhead duo are two of 20 Irish runners — seven of them from the out-of-form Gordon Elliott stable — in the 40-strong field who will face the daunting 30 fences.

One of Elliott’s runners, Delta Work, shares favouritism with English runner Snow Leopardess who runs in the colours of Andrew Fox-Pitt, brother of three-day eventing great William.

She has won over the Aintree fences this season and would be the first mare to win the race since Nickel Coin prevailed in 1951.

Minella Times’ historic victory last year, when Blackmore became the first woman jockey to ride the winner, still makes him the one to beat.

rachael-blackmore Caroline Norris / INPHO Rachael Blackmore at Fairyhouse this year. Caroline Norris / INPHO / INPHO

Although his form has been poor this season, de Bromhead thinks he has resolved any outstanding issues.

The 49-year-old Irishman is concerned by the weight rise but believes the course plays to Minella Times’ strengths.

“I think they (the handicappers) have been pretty tough and I hope they are right about that,” he told AFP by phone from his home in Ireland.

“He has been a bit disappointing this season but we have got him back to where we wanted him to be.

“We have tweaked a few things. Horses for courses, absolutely. When they arrive there they sense the familiarity, especially the National.

“If he came back to form he would have a squeak.”

 

- ‘Tough times’ -

 

Blackmore, whose mother and sister will travel over from Ireland to watch Saturday’s race, is also sanguine about the weight.

“To me he’s one of those horses who just likes Aintree, he really enjoyed it last year and jumped from fence to fence and that has to be a big plus,” the 32-year-old told Jockey Club News.

“It would be a phenomenal performance with the weight he has, but we’ll just see what happens.

“He was fantastic last year and he is a very enjoyable horse to ride.”

De Bromhead says the Grand National is still unique despite the modifications to make the fences less dangerous for the horses.

“You do get nervous,” he said.

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“I suppose the Grand National is such a fine line in that you need so much luck.

“I would not be so wound up for other races. You want a clear run and for them to come back safe and sound.”

De Bromhead and Blackmore arrive on the back of completing the Champion Hurdle/Cheltenham Gold Cup double at last month’s showpiece festival.

However, de Bromhead is a master of keeping his feet on the ground and seeing the bigger picture.

“Life goes on and we have got a business to run and it needs to keep moving on,” he said.

“I think it has been well documented we have not had a great year, there have been plenty of tough times but that is part of the business.

“There have been some fantastic moments too, though.”

His down to earth attitude has been fixed since a member of the public consoled him after his favourite Sizing Europe finished second-last in the 2008 Champion Hurdle.

“He remarked to me ‘Our Lord doesn’t close one door without slamming another’.”

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