Does The Conditional have sufficient stamina for the Grand National?
Update: The Conditional tragically died a week prior to this post doing up, due to a fatal injury at Newbury. The question had already been submitted, answered and queued for posting prior to that time and so appeared after his sad event. I’ll leave this update here as explanation as to the circumstances surrounding why the question was posted when it was.
Having made a creditable reappearance when third in the Ladbrokes Trophy, over 3 miles 2 furlongs, at Newbury in late November, The Conditional is currently 25/1 co-second favourite for the 2021 Grand National ante post. However, the nine-year-old gelding has raced over a ‘marathon’ trip just once, when a beaten favourite in the Classic Chase, over 3 miles 5 furlongs, at Warwick in January, 2020 and, according to trainer David Bridgwater, will not do so again before the National.
Bridgwater has reportedly had the Grand National in mind for The Conditional since buying him from Co. Tipperary trainer Martin Hassett in September, 2019. However, while the son of leading National Hunt sire Kalanisi is still only an eight-year-old, he weakened quickly in the closing stages at Warwick, which must raise stamina doubts for an additional 5½ furlongs at Aintree. Indeed, following his narrow win in the Ultima Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in March, 2020, Bridgwater admitted that, beforehand, he still harboured doubts about The Conditional staying 3 miles 1 furlong, never mind further.
Once upon a time, there may have been some truth in the old adage that suggested a classy 2½- mile steeplechaser was the ideal type for the Grand National, but since 1990 all bar two winners had previously won a steeplechase over at least three miles. The Conditional qualifies on that score but, even so, backing him to win the National requires a ‘leap of faith’ (no pun intended) on the part of punters; of course, that doesn’t mean he can’t win.