This time six years ago, Lucinda Russell had 14/1 shot One For Arthur set to run in the Grand National. He’d go on to win the race under Derek Fox, and Russell is hoping for a repeat performance in 2023 with Corach Rambler.
“With Arthur, we were quite naïve with everything, whereas this time round we know what’s going on,” said Russell.
“It’s funny for me as a trainer, now that we’re here, there’s not much for us to do. The closer we get to the race, the more out of my hands it is. He’s had his last canter, and it’s just a case of him arriving down at the track and being looked after and going out tomorrow.
“My job is almost over, it’s up to [Travelling Head Girl] Jaimie Duff to bring him down and look after him and then Derek to ride him, so I feel quite calm about it. It’s a really odd feeling. You’ve set everything up, you’ve aligned everything and now you hope it all works out and goes to plan.”
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There were concerns over Fox’s fitness following a fall at Wetherby last week, with Brian Hughes riding Ahoy Senor in Thursday’s Aintree Bowl, but Russell has confirmed Fox will ride Corach Rambler, who said he was delighted with the form he’s shown at home.
“We’re really, really pleased,” said Russell. “Derek rode out Corach this morning at home and gave him a canter round the pre-race route that we do.
“I’ve just spoken to him and he said he felt really keen, but he was delighted. Derek felt absolutely perfect afterwards and said he can’t believe the form the horse is in, so we’re all very positive about him.
“There are things you can’t control and the weather’s one of them. I thought the going was on the soft side at Cheltenham and that really helped him travel a bit better in the Ultima.
“I walked out on the track this morning and they do such a good job with it, they’re watering the Mildmay track a bit, but they know it so well they try keep it as even as they can and I’ve every confidence in the going, and if it is on the soft side, that can only help Corach.
“It’s one of the things we can’t control but it seems to be going the right way.”
The front-running Ahoy Senor came up just short to Shishkin in Thursday’s Aintree Bowl on his first appearance since falling in last month’s Cheltenham Gold Cup, and Russell remains optimistic he can take another run at racing’s Blue Riband next season.
“He’s fine, he is quite tired,” said Russell. “But he’s absolutely sound so that’s good, and he’ll have a holiday now.
“But I was so proud of him. This season, it took a bit of time to get him into his stride and when he did, he won the Cotswolds Chase. I think the fall at Cheltenham took a bit out of him both mentally and physically, and I think that just slightly showed a little bit yesterday.
“But he ran a fantastic race, leading them on a merry dance, and Shishkin is a well-above-average horse, and we can’t wait for next season where we’ll target the Gold Cup again before coming back to the Bowl at Aintree.”
Away from the two marquee names in Russell’s yard, there is Apple Away, running in Friday’s Sefton Hurdle, and Russell has high hopes for the mare.
“I remember when Apple Away was just a novice and we felt she was a horse with a lot of ability and would stay, and we’ve been absolutely vindicated in that belief,” said Russell.
“Her run at Doncaster in the Mares’ Listed race, to win that off the front was ideal. She really is a relentless galloper, so we’re very much looking forward to the Sefton.
“We ran Haute Estime in this last year with the mares’ allowance and it worked very well in her favour, and this horse is rated slightly higher and hopefully will show that our plans for her are correct.
“The plan next season is definitely to go novice chasing and I can’t wait for that. She’ll have the option to go into ordinary mares’ novice chases and also all-sex novice chases with an allowance, so we’re really looking forward to that.
“She jumps very well, she’s very accurate and very clever and quick on her feet, so we’re hoping that will be the right way for her.”