Nephew ready to right Aintree wrong

Neil Mulholland is a young trainer with a burgeoning reputation and he will head into the Grand National at Aintree hoping to set the record straight after a hard luck story 12 months ago.

The Druids Nephew had been well-supported for the big day in 2015 and was in the process of running a huge race under Aidan Coleman when he crashed out.

That The Druids Nephew was travelling powerfully and seemingly full of running when he fell after jumping Valentines on the final circuit should be noted when thinking of a bet in this year’s race.

Mulholland has in all likelihood had a return to Aintree in his mind from the very moment The Druids Nephew hit the turf last April.

The Druids Nephew is available at 16/1 in the Paddy Power Grand National odds at the time of writing and holds strong claims for this year’s race on April 9.

The most glaring piece of evidence in his favour is, of course, the strong performance he was giving last time around.

Racing handily throughout, The Druids Nephew had jumped well and was in pretty much the ideal position all the way around.

So we know that he can handle the hustle and bustle of Aintree and this unique challenge.

His untimely mistake came just one jump after the field had been forced to bypass The Chair and at the exact point when The Druids Nephew seemed ready to start pouring it on from the front.

At no point in the race until then had he looked more menacing than when he started to put a slither of daylight between himself Saint Are in second place.

Coleman’s mount took a misstep on landing as much as anything else and that remains as one of only two jumping mishaps in 21 career starts over obstacles.

Having had his first taste of the Grand National, there is plenty of statistical back-up to suggest he will be wiser for the experience.

Recent winners Mon Mome, Silver Birch, Hedgehunter, Amberleigh House and Monty’s Pass all did so having previously run in the race unsuccessfully.

A year on, Mulholland’s charge now slots into the 9-11-year-old age bracket that has provided no less than 17 of the last 20 Grand National winners.

His performance last time did not escape the attention of the handicapper but, with an even 11st on his back, The Druids Nephew is still attractively weighted for his 2016 Aintree mission.

Last year’s winner Many Clouds was a few lengths behind The Druids Nephew when the latter came to grief and it would be hard to say any of those in the front rank were going better than Mulholland’s charge at that exact moment.

Confidence behind Many Clouds repeating his Aintree success has been steadily growing but, with less exposure, The Druids Nephew is perhaps more of an under-the-radar contender.

Since the race last year, The Druids Nephew has had just three starts.

He returned to action at Wetherby in October over hurdles before a satisfactory spin around Cheltenham in a handicap saw him into the New Year.

His sole run of 2015 saw him finish second to another leading Grand National fancy, The Last Samurai, at Doncaster in early March.

After that run, Mulholland declared himself delighted to see the horse run so well on soft ground, especially as there was plenty to work on at home and the promise of better ground and improvement to come.

All roads now lead back to Aintree.

So closely matched for so long with Many Clouds a year ago, The Druids Nephew can be backed at twice the 8/1 price Oliver Sherwood’s charge is for a repeat victory.

Getting back to Aintree has been the plan all season and for Mulholland and The Druids Nephew it could be a case of finishing off the work that was so rudely interrupted a year ago.