There is a growing feeling that Snow Leopardess, Court Maid or Mount Ida can end a 71-year wait for a mare to win the Grand National 2022 at Aintree on Saturday and Win My Wings did nothing to dissuade that view when she ran away with the Scottish Grand National at Ayr.
The nine-year-old, the first mare to win the race for 51 years, led home a one-two for the go-to trainer of big staying handicap chases, Christian Williams, coming home seven lengths clear of her stable companion Kitty’s Light.
In truth, however, when she hit the front three out it was like she had just joined in and her amateur rider Rob James merely had to steer.
Williams said: “We knew she was good, we took her to France Compiegne]and she beat one of the best hurdlers in France over two and a quarter miles last May. She likes good ground, she makes hard work of it on soft. It’s a trappy track and Kitty’s Light did well to stand up at the second, but he’d have needed to be going some to beat Win My Wings.”
If Snow Leopardess wins the 2022 Grand National she would not only become the first mare to do so for 71 years, the first grey mare and, incredibly, the first to have already had a foal, but victory would cap an extraordinary lifetime with horses for her owner-breeder Marietta Fox-Pitt.
Fox-Pitt, 80, is best known for being the mother of Olympic three-day eventer William and for overseeing his stellar career. But she is a legend in her own right having led a remarkable life.
As a child she played croquet with Noel Coward, who lived locally, and snakes and ladders with one of her father’s “old army friends”, Sir Stewart Menzies, head of MI6 during the Second World War, when he came to shoot at Knowlton Court, the family estate near Dover.
“At the time you thought nothing of it,” she says. “I was only a child but you look back now and think ‘wow’. Noel Coward was very amusing, I’ve still got his telephone number in an old telephone address book.”
Still riding out the eventers, and very hands-on, even now she thinks nothing of putting a mare in the trailer and driving her to a stallion in France or Shropshire – and back in a day. She started off showing ponies side-saddle, and as a teenager she was already show jumping at White City.
She went to finishing school in Paris and the family would decamp lock, stock and barrel (and house cow) each winter to hunt in Leicestershire, where she soon became a renowned horsewoman. She was a debutante when, aged 17, her father died and she inherited Knowlton.
She quickly had to get to grips with running it so, while her fellow debs studied Cosmopolitan and Tatler, she had her nose in the Farmers Weekly. Her mother sent her to Africa for three months, a crash course in learning to stand on her own two feet.
Snow Leopardess’s career has also been anything but conventional and thinking outside the box is second nature when it comes to horses for Fox-Pitt. She was shown in-hand at Kent County Show, went into training with Ralph Beckett at two to learn to gallop, then went to Charlie Longsdon.
She won her first bumper in Britain, won in Ireland, won in France, injured a tendon, and had a foal by Sir Percy in her time out – Red Panda will join her at Longsdon’s yard in the autumn. When they started riding Snow Leopardess in the field again they had to stop each time the foal wanted a drink.
She went back into training, won over the Aintree fences in December, has had embryos fertilised by leading show jumping sire Chacco-Blue and transplanted so might be the mother one day of an international show jumper, and now lines up for the world’s greatest race.
They have gone to every target set more in hope than expectation but every time Snow Leopardess has delivered. “Win? I’m more worried than excited,” she says. “We’ll, no doubt, get excited nearer the time. But I’ve always liked winning.”
Marcus Armytage’s five horses to watch at the 2022 Grand National
Snow Leopardess – 7/1
A grey mare has never won the National let alone a mother but she is the story of the race and getting such media coverage that she could start favourite and be elected Prime Minister if there was a vote this week. A lot more going for her than just her colour and sex though.
Any Second Now – 8/1
The hard luck story in last year’s race when he had to step over a faller at the 12th which knocked him back to almost last. Coming in on the back of a win. Looks a big player and has good chance of giving owner JP McManus back-to-back Nationals after Minella Times last year.
Delta Work – 8/1
In the same colours as Tiger Roll and has followed the Tiger route winning the cross-country at Cheltenham on the way here. A possible negative is that he might have a hard race there. A class act, the cross-country sparked him back to life. He is probably the one to beat but this is a handicap and winning with 11st 9lb has never been historically easy. 8-1
Noble Yeats – 33/1
Bought for amateur Sam Waley-Cohen to ride, the jockey probably has the best record over the fences of anyone except Davy Russell. He’s been knocking on the door in several Nationals and this is an instance where it might pay to follow the jockey ahead of the horse.
Court Maid – 66/1
We’re all focused on Snow Leopardess to carry the flag for mares but this is an interesting alternative – she seems to stay extreme distances but has the speed to mix it over two and a half miles. Bought for the race, having her first run for Henry de Bromhead, a lot to like including her odds.
Grand National 2022 longlist and odds
Odds and list accurate as of April 3, 2022 but subject to change.
Minella Times (IRE) 9 11-09 161 J P McManus Henry de Bromhead IRE 16/1
Delta Work (FR) 9 11-08 160 Gigginstown House Stud Gordon Elliott IRE 8/1
Easysland (FR) 8 11-07 159 J P McManus Jonjo O’Neill 50/1
Any Second Now (IRE) 10 11-07 159 J P McManus Ted Walsh IRE 8/1
Run Wild Fred (IRE) 8 11-07 158 Gigginstown House Stud Gordon Elliott IRE 25/1
Lostintranslation (IRE) 10 11-05 157 Taylor & O’Dwyer Colin Tizzard 66/1
Brahma Bull (IRE) 11 11-05 157 Susannah Ricci Willie Mullins IRE 66/1
Battleoverdoyen (IRE) 9 11-05 157 Gigginstown House Stud Gordon Elliott IRE 66/1
Burrows Saint (FR) 9 11-04 156 Susannah Ricci Willie Mullins IRE 20/1
Mount Ida (IRE) 8 11-04 156 KTDA Racing Gordon Elliott IRE 25/1
Longhouse Poet (IRE) 8 11-03 155 Sean & Bernardine Mulryan Martin Brassil 16/1
Fiddlerontheroof (IRE) 8 11-03 155 Taylor, Burley & O’Dwyer Colin Tizzard 16/1
Two For Gold (IRE) 9 11-02 154 May We Never Be Found Out Partnership 2 Kim Bailey 40/1
Santini (GB) 10 11-01 153 Richard & Lizzie Kelvin-Hughes Polly Gundry 33/1
Samcro (IRE) 10 11-00 152 Gigginstown House Stud Gordon Elliott IRE 66/1
Farclas (FR) 8 11-00 152 Gigginstown House Stud Gordon Elliott IRE 20/1
Escaria Ten (FR) 8 11-00 152 McNeill Family Gordon Elliott IRE 10/1
Good Boy Bobby (IRE) 9 10-12 150 Simon Munir & Isaac Souede Nigel Twiston-Davies 33/1
Lord du Mesnil (FR) 9 10-12 150 Paul Porter & Mike & Mandy Smith Richard Hobson 66/1
Coko Beach (FR) 7 10-12 150 Gigginstown House Stud Gordon Elliott IRE 33/1
De Rasher Counter (GB) 10 10-11 149 Makin’ Bacon Partnership Emma Lavelle 40/1
Caribean Boy (FR) 8 10-11 149 Simon Munir & Isaac Souede Nicky Henderson 66/1
Court Maid (IRE) 9 10-11 149 Rory Larkin Tom Mullins IRE 66/1
Kildisart (IRE) 10 10-10 148 Simon Munir & Isaac Souede Ben Pauling 33/1
Discorama (FR) 9 10-10 148 Andrew Gemmell/Thomas Friel Paul Nolan IRE 33/1
Top Ville Ben (IRE) 10 10-10 148 Harbour Rose Partnership Philip Kirby 33/1
Enjoy d’Allen (FR) 8 10-10 148 Railway View Stud Partnership Ciaran Murphy IRE 12/1
Anibale Fly (FR) 12 10-10 148 J P McManus Tony Martin IRE 40/1
Dingo Dollar (IRE) 10 10-10 148 M Warren J Holmes R Kidner & J Wright Sandy Thomson 40/1
Freewheelin Dylan (IRE) 10 10-09 147 Sheila Mangan Dermot McLoughlin IRE 40/1
Class Conti (FR) 10 10-09 147 Simon Munir/Isaac Souede Willie Mullins IRE 66/1
Noble Yeats (IRE) 7 10-09 147 Robert Waley-Cohen Emmet Mullins IRE 33/1
Mighty Thunder (GB) 9 10-09 147 Allson Sparkle Ltd Lucinda Russell 33/1
Cloth Cap (IRE) 10 10-09 147 Exors of the late Trevor Hemmings Jonjo O’Neill 25/1
Snow Leopardess (GB) 10 10-08 146 Andrew Fox-Pitt Charlie Longsdon 7/1
Agusta Gold (IRE) 9 10-08 146 Dr S P Fitzgerald Willie Mullins IRE 66/1
Phoenix Way (IRE) 9 10-08 146 J P McManus Harry Fry 40/1
Poker Party (FR) 10 10-07 145 Robcour Henry de Bromhead 66/1
Deise Aba (IRE) 9 10-07 145 Exors of the late Trevor Hemmings Philip Hobbs 50/1
Blaklion (GB) 13 10-07 145 Darren & Annaley Yates Dan Skelton 66/1
Death Duty (IRE) 11 10-06 144 Gigginstown House Stud Gordon Elliott IRE 25/1
Domaine de L’Isle (FR) 9 10-06 144 12 Oaks Racing and Ian Hutchins Sean Curran 100/1
Eclair Surf (FR) 8 10-05 143 Dominic Burke & Tim Syder Emma Lavelle 14/1
Fortescue (GB) 8 10-05 143 T F F Nixon Henry Daly 25/1
Commodore (FR) 10 10-04 142 Mrs C Watson & Mrs S Graham Venetia Williams 50/1
School Boy Hours (IRE) 9 10-04 142 J P McManus Noel Meade IRE 33/1
Romain de Senam (FR) 10 10-04 142 Judith Wilson David Pipe 100/1
Roi Mage (FR) 10 10-02 140 Douglas Pryde Patrick Griffin IRE 66/1
Full Back (FR) 7 10-02 140 Ashley Head Gary Moore 50/1
Smoking Gun (IRE) 9 10-02 140 Barnard, Courtney, Madden, Gin & GGee’s Gordon Elliott IRE 40/1