Grand National history shows that paddling in the sea can prove a big help to a horse at Aintree; after all, Red Rum rolled up his trousers for regular dips in the waves on his local Southport beach before winning the race in 1973, 1974 and 1977.
Rebecca Curtis, a trainer who has two contenders lined up for Saturday’s big race, has a beach on her doorstep at Fforest Farm, near Newport, Pembrokeshire, and the sea air is seemingly helping O’Faolains Boy and The Romford Pele to thrive.
O’Faolains Boy is a 33-1 shot but Curtis, who came close to winning the National when Teaforthree finished third in 2013, believes he has a clear chance. His victory under Barry Geraghty in the RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival two years ago is perhaps being overlooked.
“He’s now a nine-year-old but I’m sure he’s as good as he’s ever been,” she says. “We’ve always thought he’d be a National horse. Everyone who’s ever ridden him has said that. He a real stayer, jumps really well. He handles all types of ground but perhaps some rain is a help.”
The Romford Pele, also a nine-year-old, is at 50-1 and may start at even longer odds on the day. He does not have an obvious National profile. Last month he finished eighth in the 26-runner Coral Cup, a two mile five furlong handicap hurdle, at the Cheltenham Festival – finishing eye-catchingly strongly and not beaten that far.
It was a good Aintree warm-up from a horse who ran up a sequence of three chase wins culminating in a Cheltenham victory in October 1914, under Geraghty. The horse is now 5lb lower in the chase handicap.
Curtis, who says The Romford Pele prefers decent ground, believes he will stay the National distance. She concedes he is not as good a jumper as O’Faolain’s Boy but says the Aintree spruce fences are no longer as daunting as in the past.
Arsenal supporters should perhaps risk a small-stakes, each-way wager to avoid kicking themselves on Saturday evening.