Delta Work tipped to go from spoilsport to Aintree hero at Grand National

Horse provoked remarkable scenes at Cheltenham when booed after beating Tiger Roll

Delta Work is close to topping the Randox Grand National betting market and has a shot at morphing from spoilsport to Aintree hero this Saturday.

The horse that provoked remarkable scenes at Cheltenham when booed by the crowd after defeating his stable companion Tiger Roll is challenging for favouritism in the world's most famous steeplechase.

Delta Work tops most lists alongside last year's third Any Second Now as the countdown begins in earnest to the Aintree spectacular.

Held behind closed doors last year, the National was cancelled in 2020, although a full-house is guaranteed this time.


Tiger Roll twice used Cheltenham’s Cross-Country race as a prep’ for National glory in 2018 and 2018.

With Gordon Elliott's stalwart retired the hope within Michael O'Leary's Gigginstown Stud team is that the Cross-Country challenge has reinvigorated Delta Work's enthusiasm to a similar degree.

“He’s had a good prep. It (the Cross-Country) has been a good stepping stone for the race for me and he’s in good form,” Elliott reported on Sunday.

Officially rated at 171 at his peak, the former Irish Gold Cup winner will line up at Aintree off 160, a mark that could look lenient if Delta Work confirms he is transformed from the rather jaded character he looked prior to Cheltenham.

He is a fresh element to a National which sees many of last year’s principals back for more.

Minella Times provided Rachael Blackmore with a ground-breaking success in 2021, winning from his stablemate Balko Des Flos.

The latter is absent but Any Second Now (third), Burrows Saint (fourth), Farclas (fifth), Blaklion (sixth) and Discorama (seventh) are also on course to line up again.

Blaklion was the only British trained horse in the first 11 last year as Irish trained runners dominated to an unprecedented degree.

The mare Snow Leopardess looks like leading the home defence this time, but it is 4-9 about the National winner coming from Ireland again.

It is 4-1 about the first four home being Irish trained.

Delta Work leads another strong National challenge from Gordon Elliott who is seeking a record-equalling fourth success in the race.

Fred Rimell and Red Rum's trainer Ginger McCain both saddled four National winners as did George Dockeray in the 19th century.

Six-month suspension

Elliott, also successful with Silver Birch in 2007, is trying to become the first Irish person to do such a feat.

“We’ve a lot of good chances in the race this year. Escaria Ten has had a good preparation. Run Wild Fred is there. We’ll probably run five or six and we can’t wait,” he said.

In the aftermath of last year’s six-month suspension due a notorious image of him sitting on a dead horse, National success would be the biggest visible sign of Elliott’s rehabilitation.

It comes after Saturday's Scottish National victory by amateur jockey Rob James who led home a Christian Williams trained one-two on Win My Wings at Ayr.

James was caught up in the aftermath of the Elliott image and got suspended for four months after a video, taken in 2016, emerged of him sitting on a dead horse.

The countdown to Saturday’s big race will see some anxious sets of connections hoping to make the final field of 40 runners.

Trainer Emma Lavelle is sure of a place for one runner, De Rasher Counter, but is keeping fingers crossed for another horse, Éclair Surf.

He is currently No 47 on the list of entries ahead of Monday’s latest confirmation stage.

“Éclair Surf is eight years old so there’s no doubt he definitely has time on his side as far as the Grand National is concerned.

“What it does show you though is how tough it is to even get a run in the race as he’s rated 143.

“With that in mind you sort of feel that if we do get in, we’ll take our chance and if we don’t then hopefully we’ll have a crack next year,” Lavelle said.

Henry De Bromhead is another keeping fingers crossed for Poker Party to make the field.

The former Kerry National winner is No. 43 at the moment although with his stable companion Chris's Dream ruled out through a setback he is already a step closer.

As well as Minella Times, De Bromhead can call on his new recruit Court Maid who has moved from Tom Mullins’ yard. She is a 66-1 outsider but is assured of a place.

Final declarations for the National are made on Thursday although there will be four reserves in case of withdrawals.

Saturday’s race, the longest in the jumps race calendar, is off at 5.15.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor is the racing correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Tipping Point column