The Aintree racecourse main event of the season is happening without a live audience. Better than last year, when it had to be canceled altogether. A second disappointment came when the owners of Tiger Roll, the great favorite, decided to withdraw him from the race because of “unfair” handicapping. Now, a new emotion is motivating punters to take advantage of Grand National offers because there are fair chances that a mare is crowned champion on March 10th. Magic Of Light, the runner-up to Tiger Roll in 2019, is bidding to break a long, long gap of equine male dominance in Aintree. The last mare to win a Grand national was Nickel Coin in 1951. Seventy long years of same-sex continuity.
Can Magic of Light really make it? The 10-year-old came only eighth in the Mares’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival last March. Last December, she had a much more brilliant performance in Newbury’s Pertemps Network Mares’ Chase, where she completed a hat-trick of wins. In January 2021, her Kildare-based trainer, Jessica Harrington, was the second Irish trainer (after Willie Mullins) to send a horse across the sea after the UK finalized its divorce from the European Union. She was after a third consecutive victory in Ascot at the Grade 2 Matchbook Betting Podcast Mares’ Hurdle on January 23rd. Alas, after leading nearly to the end, Magic of Light was passed after the last hurdle by Dan Skelton’s Roksana.
Harrington did not sound particularly abashed. On the contrary, after the race she commented her mare’s performance with glee: “She’s very well. We were pleased with her.” In her opinion, the gap in ratings between her mare and the winner explained it all. Magic Of Light ranked 4lb lower than Roksana, with off-level weights. “On ratings, she had no right to beat that filly, and she ran a very good race on ground that was probably a bit tacky for her.”
Harrington made it clear that the season’s goal for Magic of Light is the Grand National. Both the trainer and jockey Robbie Power are confident that their mare is in excellent form and ready for the challenge. In 2019, she finished only two and three-quarter lengths behind Tiger Roll. “She just loves jumping. She pricks her ears, and you know she is watching what she is doing because she is concentrating on her fences. She is a joy to ride,” is the way Power describes Magic of Light’s personality. The way the mare handled the challenging course in Aintree, a tough marathon with unique fences, seems to prove him right.
Magic of Light is a consistent performer: she has earned victories or placements in 12 of her 17 chase outings. Jessica Harrington never had a runner in the Grand National before this mare. Now she is taking her back there, accompanied by the rookie Jett. “Magic Of Light and Jett are all set for the Grand National,” she said. “Jett will run in blinkers or a visor. I was delighted with Magic Of Light’s run at Cheltenham. She has come out of that in great form, and the trip was just too short for her. I expect her to run very well at Aintree.”