2022 Grand National winner aiming for second triumph in the famous race

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  • Trainer Emmet Mullins has revealed that Aintree hero Noble Yeats is being targeted at the bold double of the Cheltenham Gold Cup and retaining his Grand National crown this spring.

    The County Carlow-based trainer confirmed the horse is “definitely” being aimed at the Randox Grand National, adding that he “cannot see any reason why we shouldn’t fancy our chances once again”.

    “We haven’t found the ceiling for him yet,” he said.

    Mr Mullins’ stable star, who amateur Sam Waley-Cohen partnered to a fairytale 50/1 victory in the 2022 Aintree showpiece on his final ride, has won two of his three starts this season.

    The now eight-year-old Yeats son, owned by Sam’s father Robert Waley-Cohen, was pulled up on his first start this season at Auteuil (15 October). But he followed up with a Listed victory at Wexford in October and returned to Aintree in December to take the Grade Two Many Clouds, run on the Mildmay Course, with this week’s H&H interview star Sean Bowen in the saddle for both successes.

    “After his performance in the Many Clouds last time he won’t be too well looked after in the weights but with a horse like him he grows in that scenario and I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t fancy our chances [in the Grand National] once again,” said Mr Mullins.

    “The Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup is a stayers’ race and I would compare him to something like Hedgehunter who won a National and was second in a Gold Cup afterwards. Hopefully he’ll take his chance in the Gold Cup.”

    He added: “The Gold Cup was on the radar this year from the get-go. I hadn’t realised until I heard on a programme over the weekend that only two horses have won the Gold Cup and Grand National in the past. Luckily for me and the horse that won’t register with us!”

    That elite club has just two members – Golden Miller, who completed the double in 1934, and dual Gold Cup champion L’Escargot, who took Cheltenham glory in 1970 and 1971 before adding the 1975 Grand National win to his CV.

    Connections are eyeing a trip to Lingfield Park for the Fleur de Lys Chase (22 January), before heading to Cheltenham for the Gold Cup (17 March).

    2J3PE7R Noble Yeats ridden by Sam Waley-Cohen (right) jump The Chair fence on their way to winning the Randox Grand National Handicap Chase during Grand National Day of the Randox Health Grand National Festival 2022 at Aintree Racecourse, Liverpool. Picture date: Saturday April 9, 2022.Grand National result

    Noble Yeats and Sam Waley-Cohen, pictured in the orange and brown colours, on their way to winning the 2022 Grand National.

    Mr Mullins admitted the 2022 Grand National victory still “hasn’t really sunk in”.

    “It was a long preparation [for Aintree]. We had it planned from a long way out to target the Grand National and everything went to plan. I suppose at the time of the weights he was one of the fancied horses at the prices,” he said.

    “When he ran [finishing ninth in the Ultima Handicap Chase] at Cheltenham it was Sam’s first ride on him and while everything didn’t go to plan it might have been the making of the horse being in a big-field handicap chase at Cheltenham.

    “His price drifted on the back of that, which made him go under the radar, but we never lost hope or confidence. I remember I explained to Sam the night before the race that if I had the last two weeks back then there was nothing I would have changed as everything had gone to plan – it was all very straightforward.

    “Up to the week of the race, I was unaware of the trends and statistics but I never had any worries about his jumping or experience. He came from the point-to-point field and finished second first time out before we bought him. He is shrewd, smart and economical with his jumping – not exuberant or anything like that but great at getting from A to B.”

    Reflecting on the 2022 Grand National, Mr Mullins said: “I watched the race on the right-hand side of the tunnel facing out on to the track. I was completely on my own and that was plan A for me – I was happy!

    “I am fairly sure looking back on it that I was watching the wrong horse for the first part of the race down to the Canal Turn and I still wasn’t that impressed when I saw where he actually was.

    “By the time he got to the water jump, passing in front of me and heading out on the second circuit I thought he was in position A – winners of Nationals all come this little pocket in the field and that was the first blow I took – I am not sure about the horse, but I just had to take a breath to gather my thoughts and myself together.

    “From then on it was just plain sailing – he jumped brilliant. At Valentine’s or the one after he had a little peck but honestly that was the only worry in the whole race. Sam was brilliant on him – to be able to get the horse in his comfort zone and travelling and the confidence to sit and wait crossing the Melling Road to fill him up… the rest is history.”

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