Wet weather at Easter ruined the plans of many, but there was one person who was delighted at the unseasonable amount of rain falling.
Gavin Cromwell, trainer of Randox Health Grand National candidate Raz De Maree, took a gamble the ground would be soft enough at Aintree for him to run the teenager, and it looks like paying off.
The last time he was in action, Raz De Maree won the Welsh National at Chepstow, creating plenty of headlines as his jockey that day, the prodigiously talented James Bowen, was only three years older than his mount.
Now the task in front of the 13-year-old is to add his name to a list of horses who have won both Nationals like Silver Birch and Bindaree, but Earth Summit was the last to win them in the same season in 1997.
“Everything has gone great, it’s all systems go,” said County Meath-based Cromwell.
“I think I’m the only person who wasn’t upset with all the rain recently and long may it last. I hope it keeps up.
“He’s great, he’s in good old order and I’m really looking forward to it.”
Translated into English from French, Raz De Maree means ‘tidal wave’, which seems appropriate, so wet has it been.
“If he gets his ground there won’t be many staying on better than him at the end of four and a quarter miles,” said Cromwell.
“We took a bit of a punt not running him anywhere between Chepstow and Aintree, hoping we might get soft ground, but that part looks like paying off at least
“We did enter for the MIdlands National at Uttoxeter, but he would have had a lot of weight and he’s only a small horse.
“He’s got a great weight in the National. We were slightly tempted at one stage by the Irish National, but one of his owners really wanted to go to Aintree so we didn’t even make the entry in the end, just in case we got too tempted to run.
“Staying is his strength, as people have been able to see at Chepstow.”
Raz De Maree became the oldest winner of the Chepstow marathon in modern times and while there have been several 12-year-old winners at Aintree, most recently Amberleigh House in 2004 for Ginger McCain, you have to go back to 1923 and Sergeant Murphy for the last of his age to be successful.
“He ran in the National last year, but he unseated at Becher’s. He just got unsighted by a faller and didn’t actually make that much of a mistake,” said Cromwell.
“Given how early on it was you couldn’t say what might have happened. We then went to the Irish National and his saddle slipped.
“So, we’ve had two Nationals to forget about but luckily one we like to remember – hopefully there might be one more.
“I know he’s got a long old statistic to break, but it was nearly 100 years since any 13-year-old had won the Welsh National, too.”
While James Bowen will be riding Shantou Flyer against him this time, Cromwell moved swiftly to snap up the excellent Robbie Power, already a National winner on Silver Birch.
“In getting Robbie I’m delighted, there won’t be a whole lot of instructions I need to give him. He’ll come and have a sit on him beforehand,” reasoned Cromwell.
“There are a couple of Aintree fences on the Curragh and he lights up when he sees them. He also jumped around there in his days with Dessie Hughes.
“He’s a very sound horse and relatively lightly raced. He seems in great nick.”