GRAND NATIONAL COUNTDOWN: Willie Mullins bullish over eight-strong challenge in £1m Aintree showpiece… but trainer Ben Pauling suffers major blow with loss of stable star

  • Irish National winner I Am Maximus leads the Mullins’ Grand National squad 
  • Irish trainer has two other horses in the first five of the ante-post betting 

Willie Mullins believes all his runners have genuine each-way chances when he launches an eight-strong challenge on Saturday’s £1million Randox Grand National.

Last year’s Irish National winner I Am Maximus, the 7-1 second favourite with Paddy Power, leads the Mullins squad and is the pick of stable jockey Paul Townend.

But Mullins has two other horses in the first five of the ante-post betting — Meetingofthewaters (8-1, Danny Mullins), winner of the Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown’s Christmas meeting before finishing third in the Ultima Handicap Chase at Cheltenham last month, and Mr Incredible (12-1, Brian Hayes).

He unseated Hayes when still going well after the Canal Turn on the second circuit last year after his saddle slipped.

The eight-year-old made a belated seasonal reappearance last month when second under top weight in the Midlands National at Uttoxeter.

Last year’s Irish National winner I Am Maximus leads the Willie Mullins' Grand National squad

Last year’s Irish National winner I Am Maximus leads the Willie Mullins’ Grand National squad

Mullins said: ‘I have lots of good horses in the National.

‘I Am Maximus does look the best on form but with the ground the way it is, the form the horses are in at home and I think they all have each-way chances. I am very happy with the whole team.

‘This has been our target with I Am Maximus since winning last season’s Irish National. He is learning the game. He was a very immature horse and you could see that in last year’s Irish Grand National when he wouldn’t go round the inside and Paul had to pull him to the outside. This season he is maturing all the time and his head is getting better.’

Mr Incredible has looked a transformed performer since joining Mullins. 

Asssessing his chance Ireland’s champion trainer added: ‘Mr Incredible has a big chance. He is quirky but he will love the track.’

Mullins’ other runners are Stattler (Patrick Mullins), Capodanno (Keith Donoghue), Adamantly Chosen (Sean O’Keeffe), Janidil (Jody McGarvey) and Glengouly (Micheal O’Sullivan). 

Meanwhile, trainer Ben Pauling has suffered a major blow with owners Andrew and Jane Megson removing their horses from his stable including the talented Tellherthename.

The gelding, who Pauling was aiming at next week’s Scottish Champion Hurdle at Ayr, has been switched to Ed Dunlop to pursue a Flat career.

Pauling was successful at last month’s Cheltenham Festival with Harry Redknapp-owned Shakem Up’arry, who runs in this afternoon’s Topham Trophy Chase along with stablemate Your Darling.

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