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Gavin Cromwell: Vanillier’s strength lies in his jumping

Gavin Cromwell's Vanillier finished second to Corach Ramber in last year's Grand National
Gavin Cromwell's Vanillier finished second to Corach Ramber in last year's Grand National

TRAINER Gavin Cromwell is taking no prisoners in this year’s Grand National, sending last year’s runner-up, Vanillier, back into the mix, alongside Cheltenham Festival winner Limerick Lace and Malina Girl.

Commenting on Vanillier’s progress and his expectation of the gelding against the favourite, Lucinda Russell’s Corach Rambler, William Hill ambassador Cromwell said: “I think Vanillier has come forward since the Bobbyjo. This time of year, every year, he just improves. A bit of spring in the air and his fitness levels get better.

“He’s gone up a little bit in the handicap since last year, but he is consistent, particularly in the spring, and I’m happy with what I’m seeing from him at home. You need a lot of luck in the National and you need a clear run, but I think that, if he gets that, he’s going to be competitive.

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“It’s not that you need good luck, you just don’t want bad luck! But you do also need to have the ability.

“He went very close to Corach Rambler last year and there is a bit of a flip-flop with the weights, so you certainly couldn’t rule against him beating the favourite.”

The only vulnerability Vanillier may have on the day is the ground, if the incessant rain continues to fall at Aintree.

Cromwell explained, “I wouldn’t like it too soft next week. He definitely appreciates a bit of nicer ground.

“I know he is lacking an extra gear a little bit and, because of that, you might expect that to be a reason for him to like softer ground, but that’s just not the case. He does enjoy better ground.”

While Cromwell doesn’t want slow ground for his first string, he can see how the rain might have a positive effect on the race as a whole: “If it remains quite soft, one benefit would be a slower pace. It’d be nice to see things slowed down as the race has recently become more about speed than it has about jumping, with the fences getting a little bit smaller.

“It was too much of a rat race down to the first last time and to slow things down is a positive.

“There was possibly too much negative press around the Grand National changes last year [fewer runners, a standing start and a shorter run to the first fence] when they were made, but it should be seen as a positive as the pace needs to slow.”

In terms of other likely candidates for first place on the day, Cromwell said: “I Am Maximus looks the standout, but he doesn’t look the most straightforward jumper and that could be where our strength lies.”

“Limerick Lace is on an upward curve and you certainly couldn’t rule her out of beating Vanillier,” Cromwell said. “She was a good winner in Cheltenham in the Mares’ Chase and she’s gone up in the handicap for that, so potentially looks well-in for the National.

“She jumps well and she has youth on her side. I think she has a live chance and is potentially overpriced in the market as it is.”

Cromwell would be equally delighted for any of his runners to win the race this year.

“On a personal level, it would be massive to win the Grand National. It would be a dream come true, like it would be for any trainer.”