Cloudy Glen heads Venetia Williams’ strong hand at Aintree
Herefordshire trainer Venetia Williams added her name to the Grand National roll of honour in 2009 when she saddled Mon Mome to victory in the world’s most famous steeplechase.
Williams became only the second female trainer in history to win the race behind Jenny Pitman. Since then, Sue Smith and Lucinda Russell have both all been successful in the Aintree feature contest, and the gender issue was well and truly put to bed last April when Rachael Blackmore became the first lady rider to win the world’s most famous steeplechase.
It has been a good season for Williams so far. She has had over 50 winners and has landed over £1 million prize money. Victory in the Grand National, the most lucrative race in National Hunt racing, could help her finish with the best campaign of her career, even put her in contention for the Trainers’ championship.
At the latest stage of declarations, Williams had four horses still entered in the marathon contest. The pick of her runners this year appears to be Cloudy Glen, who began the season with victory in a Grade Three contest at Newbury.
Cloudy Glen is one of the popular Cheltenham racing tips for the Ultima Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival. The nine-year-old finished second in the Kim Muir Challenge Cup at the meeting in 2021 and he will head back to the meeting with big claims.
Williams’ talented chaser has been handed 10st 3lb for the Grand National by the handicapper, and he is expected to have one of the lowest weights in the 40-runner contest in April. He is 40/1 to score at the Merseyside racecourse and give his trainer a second win in the race after Many Clouds in 2015.
Cheltenham Victory Puts Commodore in Aintree Picture
Commodore returned to action back in December for Williams after nine months off the track, and he produced an excellent performance to score by 15 lengths at Cheltenham in a Grade Three contest.
The 10-year-old had wind surgery last February and that procedure looks to have helped the horse. He stayed on very strongly at the back end of the 3m2f contest at Prestbury Park which will have left his connections very optimistic about a big run in the Grand National.
As the 62nd horse in the Grand National list, Commodore will need some 22 runners to drop out for him to make the final field. The experienced chaser has yet to appear at Aintree. However, he can just scrape in at the bottom of the handicap provided he gets a run.
Achille and Didero Vallis Lively Outsiders
Both Achille and Didero Vallis have some experience of jumping the Grand National fences at Aintree, so if they do get a spot in the 4m2½f contest this year, they will be familiar with the course.
Achille finished fifth in the Becher Handicap Chase which was won by Snow Leopardess last December. The four-time chase winner was also fourth in the Welsh Grand National at Chepstow this season, so he has proved he has abundant stamina for a race of this nature.
Didero Vallis, a horse who has run twice at Ludlow this season, was a place behind Achille in the Becher. He has also taken part in the Grand Sefton twice. Williams’ chaser has completed the course on all three of his appearances over the unique fences in Liverpool, so we can be assured the fences will be no obstacle.
The 2022 Grand National takes place on April 9th this year. It would be an excellent way for Williams to cap off what has been a resurgent season for the Aramstone trainer.