Thirty eight years after Rubstic’s win at Aintree, Lucinda Russell’s One for Arthur ended the long, barren spell 12 months ago and Scotland could make it back-to-back wins this afternoon with two prime candidates for the big race.
Cases can be made for Seeyouatmidnight and Captain Redbeard, both trained in the Borders, but the preference goes to the former.
Trained by Sandy Thomson at Lambden Farm, Greenlaw, Midnight has some class form. In 2016, he beat Blaklion, one of the leading fancies for the National, in the Dipper Chase at Cheltenham, demolished subsequent Grand 1 winner Bristol de Mai at Carlisle and was third in the Scottish Grand National.
Carrying only 10st 11lb, he seems extremely well weighted. The crux, of course, is whether he retains that ability after 12 months sidelined through injury. Midnight made his return with a creditable third over an inadequate two-and-a-half miles at Newbury late last month after bad weather prevented earlier appearances and Thomson was delighted with the run.
“He’s fully recovered. I rode him on the Thursday and Friday at Newbury and was delighted how he felt. Danny Cook [his jockey at Newbury] reported how good he felt, too, but said he just blew up after the last. Not to blow my own trumpet, but the one thing I have been able to do is get the older horses, like Harry the Viking, to retain their ability even though they have spent a bit of time in the wilderness.”
“One of the things that really pleased me at Newbury was that it is a big track and he jumped it really well, even though he hadn’t jumped a fence even here since his run in the Betfair Chase in 2016. We wouldn’t have chosen to go to Newbury but, in the end, it might have worked out for the best.”
Midnight goes into the race having never fallen, while the four-mile plus distance should not pose any problems given his performance in the Scottish National. Thomson is also confident Midnight will handle any type of ground.
Without doubt, Midnight ticks many of the boxes needed to win the National, which probably prompted Cheveley Park Stud’s David and Patricia Thompson to buy him this week, although the horse, formerly owned by Thomson’s wife, Quona, will still be trained at Lambden Farm. Midnight will be attempting to replicate the feat of Party Politics, who won the 1992 Grand National carrying the Thompsons’ silks, having been purchased just days beforehand.
Of the others in the race, Captain Redbeard, from the Stuart Coltherd stable in Selkirk, could run into a place on the back of his Tommy Whittle Chase win at Haydock and his second in the Peter Marsh at the same track.
Tony Martin’s Irish raider Anibale Fly could also go close after his eyecatching late progress to take third place behind the dominant duo of Native River and Might Bite at the Festival last month. That was a classy effort and was a timely tonic after his fall in the Irish Gold Cup in February. Total Recall could also make the placings.
None, though, make the appeal of Seeyouatmidnight. Although regular jockey Brian Hughes has failed to complete the course in all six previous rides in the race, he, and Scotland, might just be in seventh heaven this afternoon.