ENJOY D’ALLEN has the right profile to give Irishman Ciaran Murphy his first winner in Britain in the biggest race of them all – the Randox Grand National (5.15).
Murphy has held a licence for just over a year, having taken over from popular trainer Dot Love at the Charlestown Stud stable in Mullingar, Co Westmeath, in January 2021.
With just three runners over jumps and one on the Flat, Murphy’s name is not a familiar one to followers of the turf on this side of the Irish Sea.
But Enjoy D’Allen has the credentials to make the 44-year-old a household name.
Murphy had only just set out on his own when the son of Network scored over fences at Fairyhouse and Thurles at the start of last year.
On the back of second placings in novice handicap chases at Naas and Navan, Murphy sent Enjoy D’Allen for the Irish Grand National last April.
At three miles and five furlongs, the Fairyhouse represents a stern test of a horse’s stamina.
But, in running a strong-finishing third to 150-1 winner Freewheelin Dylan, Enjoy D’Allen was crying out for more – like devouring a seven-course meal and then stopping off at McDonald’s on the way home.
With that in mind, this afternoon’s distance – four miles, two furlongs and 74 yards – will be tailor made for the mount of rising star jockey Conor Orr.
The ability to negotiate 30 fences – still formidable, despite the modifications – will also be at a premium.
That’s another box ticked – in 10 outings over fences, my selection has been sure footed as a mountain goat. Think an equine Fred Astaire.
A fair weight is also essential and, with a rating of 148 – Enjoy D’Allen carries 11st 10lb – the Grand National handicapper has been more than fair.
This season, Murphy has brought his stable star along with Aintree in mind, with two runs over hurdles either side of a fine third in a three-mile handicap chase at Leopardstown over Christmas.
The perfect preparation for the big day and Enjoy D’Allen, purchased by JP McManus since his latest start, is the choice to give his new owner the cherished prize for the third time, following Don’t Push It in 2010 and Minella Times 12 months ago.
The 2022 National is no less intriguing than the 173 runnings that preceded it, with Minella Times seeking to retain his crown after a history-making success under Rachael Blackmore.
The reigning monarch can boast a mastery of the famous obstacles – Snow Leopardess and teenager Blaklion are the other course winners in the field – but Blackmore’s partner must now carry top weight and hasn’t finished either of his races this term.
The unlucky horse last year was undoubtedly Any Second Now, who flew home into third after being stopped in his tracks by a faller at the 12th fence.
Any Second Now, whose trainer Ted Walsh savoured National glory with Papillon in 2000, is again on the shortlist, along with compatriot Longhouse Poet, representing Martin Brassil, victorious with Numbersixvalverde six years later.
After Irish raiders took home the last three Nationals, British trainers will be anxious to stop the rot.
Eclair Surf is progressive and sneaks towards the bottom of the 40-runner field, is a player for Wiltshire-based Emma Lavelle, while Fiddlerontheroof, a final runner in the race for the popular Colin Tizzard, commands respect.
At bigger odds, Kildisart, troubled by injury in recent years but with a big engine, is also capable of a big run.
Grand National 1-2-3-4 prediction
1 ENJOY D’ALLEN
2 ECLAIR SURF
4 LONGHOUSE POET