Cromwell lining up triple challenge for National honours

Last year’s Aintree second Vanillier heads trainer’s contenders.

Last year’s runner-up Vanillier and Cheltenham Festival heroine Limerick Lace could be joined by Malina Girl to form a three-pronged assault on the Randox Grand National for trainer Gavin Cromwell.

Vanillier charged home from the rear to finish best of the rest behind Corach Rambler 12 months ago and warmed up for his return to Merseyside by finishing second in the Bobbyjo Chase at Fairyhouse in February for the second year in succession.

The grey is a Cheltenham Festival winner himself, having landed the 2021 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle, and Cromwell is optimistic of another bold showing at Aintree on Saturday week.

Vanillier in action in last year's Grand National
Vanillier in action in last year’s Grand National (Mike Egerton/PA)

“He’s good, I’m happy with him now, he’s come out of the Bobbyjo well and come forward since that,” said the County Meath handler.

“I’d like it if it stopped raining so the ground isn’t too testing. If it dried up a little bit it would be no harm.

“If you look back at his form, he won the Albert Bartlett in the spring time when there was a bit of nice ground coming and we think he improves for it.

“This has been the plan for the year, we’re pretty happy with how it’s gone and we’re happy with where he is now, that’s the most important part.”

Limerick Lace has won three of her four starts over fences so far this season, most recently edging out fellow JP McManus-owned runner Dinoblue in a thrilling Mares’ Chase at Cheltenham.

The seven-year-old will step up almost two miles in distance in the Grand National, but William Hill ambassador Cromwell does not feel she is lacking in the stamina department.

“At the moment, the plan is to run her, she’s come out of Cheltenham well,” he said.

“She jumps well, so hopefully she’ll take the fences.

“She was second in the Troytown in Navan back in November and stayed well that day over three miles on testing going. I know the National is a bit further again, but the Troytown is a big stamina race and she did stay well, so hopefully she can stay a bit further.

“She certainly handles soft ground and she’s very clear winded, but the softer the ground, the more stamina that’s needed. Hopefully she can stay.”

Malina Girl (left) on her way to victory at Cheltenham
Malina Girl (left) on her way to victory at Cheltenham (Nigel French/PA)

Malina Girl, who won a staying handicap chase at Cheltenham in November, is currently the 39th horse in the order of entry, meaning she is not yet guaranteed a place in the final field of 34.

But with an allotted weight of just 10st 5lb, Cromwell is keen to let her line up if she does make the cut for the world’s most famous steeplechase.

“She’d probably prefer it if the ground dried out a little. She’s only small, but she does jump really well and she’s off a light weight, so we plan to run her anyway,” he added.

“She’s probably not got much in hand off her handicap mark, but at the same time she jumps well and stays well and has a light weight, so hopefully she can run well.”

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