Grand National 2024 tips: Classy Irish raider Mahler Mission can deny Corach Rambler

England has the favourite in last year's winner Corach Rambler, while Gordon Elliott and Willie Mullins have eight runners each — but Grand National glory at Aintree just might be bound for Ireland, with Mahler Mission and John McConnell.

The build-up to the £1million race has been dominated by the weather. The field has been reduced to 34 runners yet, in truth, it was not a huge price some days ago that the race may have been under threat had there been too many downpours.

As such, that this unique and spectacular festival commenced on Thursday on ground described as "soft, heavy in places" was a great relief. Ideally, it would not want to get any deeper for Mahler Mission, but positives abound.

In 13 starts, he has been in the first three all bar twice, and one of those was a Cheltenham mishap 13 months ago that rather enhanced his reputation. Still seemingly travelling best in the amateurs' novice chase at the Festival, the McConnell runner came down two out.

Mahler Mission (Tim Goode/PA Wire)
Mahler Mission (Tim Goode/PA Wire)

His only run this season was remarkable, as he reportedly lost both front shoes in a gruelling Welsh National in December, yet beat all his rivals bar Datsalrightgino. McConnell deliberately skipped Cheltenham in March with a view to the horse being at his best at Aintree.

Popular Dubliner Ben Harvey takes the ride and, at around 16-1, the eight-year-old has a fighting chance, despite having just one win to his name chasing.

He has oodles of class and is a straightforward ride — note how easily he travelled in the Welsh National, where the fences are arguably tougher than he faces here.

Sulekha Varma, Aintree clerk of the course, said this week that all the tinkering with the contest has "[helped] the great race retain all of its magic". That is very much up for debate. Ten years ago, the replacement of the solid wooden fence cores with more forgiving plastic reduced the drops on some of the fences — particularly Becher's Brook and the Canal Turn — and helped to render the race much less of a test.

But the conditions in 2024 ensure there is little or no hiding place regarding stamina, and the turf is so demanding that it must be a concern for Corach Rambler, who was third in the Gold Cup and returns in fine health.

Corach Rambler (Mike Egerton/PA Wire)
Corach Rambler (Mike Egerton/PA Wire)

Mr Incredible, however, enjoys these conditions and is a lively runner. The eight-year-old, who has his quirks and is never guaranteed to put it all in, nevertheless was seemingly travelling nicely in this race last year when exiting at the Canal Turn. His warm-up — second in the Midlands National — was perfectly encouraging and he may well be Mullins's best runner.

The Irishman still has his eyes on a first British training title. Both he and Venetia Williams know what is required to win the race and the last-named, who took it in 2009 with Mon Mome, could strike with the veteran Chambard. He made his first visit to Liverpool only in December but thrived over these fences, taking the Becher by 13 lengths.

JP McManus is strongly represented. Limerick Lace, who scored for Gavin Cromwell at Cheltenham last month, is far from guaranteed to get the marathon distance but, at least, she loves demanding terrain. The wily Mark Walsh attempts a first win in the race.

Finally, could the pride of Sussex, Gary Moore, strike for England? He says the handicapper has been really hard on Nassalam for winning the Welsh National. The Gold Cup — in which he was miles behind Corach Rambler — suggested he is flattered by his mark.

But with conditions rendering this an Aintree National like nothing we have seen in years, he should stay going when others have given up. With, perhaps, the exception of Mahler Mission.

 (Evening Standard)
(Evening Standard)