The Irish challenge for the Randox Grand National looks set to be at a record high level this Saturday when as much as 75% of the field could be supplied by Irish trainers. Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott will be the chief contributors, but there is also a significant challenge from the mid-to-smaller level yards.

Meath-based but Kildare native John McConnell has shaped the whole season of his inmate Mahler Mission around an Aintree bid and the nine-year-old will go to Liverpool with a big chance.

“Physically to look at, he looks stronger than we’ve ever had him,” he told us last week. “He’s as well as we’ve ever had him. Hopefully that translates to a good run.

“Ben Harvey will ride him. He’s done all the work on him. He schooled him in the Curragh over the National fences there. Fingers crossed we get him there in one piece.”

With the never-ending poor weather spell, the National looks set to be run on soft ground for the first time since 2018, which will have a huge bearing on the race. However McConnell has little worry with this aspect.

“I wouldn’t mind soft ground,” he said. “I don’t want any extremes either way but he certainly goes through soft ground very well. We worked him in Navan a couple of weeks ago and it was bottomless and in Leopardstown after racing as well. Soft ground won’t be a problem.”

Grand National in 2006

Martin Brassil famously won the Grand National in 2006 with Numbersixvalverde and he has a decent change of repeating the feat with Panda Boy and perhaps Desertmore House.

“The weather is all we’re worried about, really,” Brassil said. “It looks like it could be quite soft and that would be a bit of a worry for better ground horses, like my two.

“JJ Slevin rides Panda Boy and Ricky Doyle rides Desertmore House. Panda Boy could be a real National horse. He stays well, is a good solid horse to jump and he has actually run better on soft ground this year. I’d say the fact he is a stronger horse has helped in that regard.

“I’d be just as positive about Desertmore House (40/1). He is a Kerry National winner, a good solid stayer and straightforward jumper.”

While the Irish challenge for the race is significant, the favourite Corach Rambler is trained in Scotland by Lucinda Russell, and will likely be a popular choice for punters in his bid to emulate Tiger Roll as a back-to-back winner in the famous contest.