Paul Townend celebrates aboard I Am Maximus
Paul Townend celebrates aboard I Am Maximus

Grand National rating reaction: I Am Maximus best winner this century

Timeform reflect on what next for the top-class winner and how he might prove the new model for a modern-day Randox Grand National winner.

One of eight runners in the Grand National field saddled by Willie Mullins – which was more than the number of runners from British stables combined – and one of five carrying the colours of J. P. McManus, last year’s Irish Grand National winner I Am Maximus justified the support which sent him off the 7/1 joint-favourite to become his trainer’s second Grand National winner, 19 years after Hedgehunter.

In giving Paul Townend his first success in the race, I Am Maximus carried 11-6 to victory which was a big burden by recent Aintree standards. Since the days of Red Rum, only Many Clouds, who won under 11-9 in 2015, has carried a bigger weight to victory.

It’s no surprise, then, that I Am Maximus recorded a career-best effort on Saturday, taking his rating from an already high-class 161 to a top-class 167. He therefore put up the best performance this century by a Grand National winner, eclipsing the 165 which Tiger Roll recorded when winning for the second time in 2019.

Many Clouds had run to 164 when he was successful, as did Neptune Collonges in 2012. Hedgehunter too ranks highly among this century’s Grand National winners on 162 alongside Don’t Push It who gave McManus his first Grand National success in 2010.

Being a handicap, it’s not necessarily the winner who records a high rating, and the McManus-owned Any Second Now also ran to 165 when runner-up to Noble Yeats in 2022, conceding the winner almost a stone. Noble Yeats himself ran to 164 when fourth under top weight last year but never looked like repeating that feat this time. You have to go back to 1998 to find a better performance than the one put up by I Am Maximus.

Suny Bay achieved a rating of 171 from his second to Earth Summit that year, carrying 12-0 and conceding 23 lb to the winner. That effort was all the more creditable given the very testing conditions which resulted in only six completing (one of those remounted) and the first two finishing a distance clear of the rest.

Heavy ground had looked on the cards for this year’s race earlier in the week, though drier weather later on resulted in going no worse than soft on the big day.

A standing start and the shortened run to the first fence ensured a less frenetic gallop than usual and a remarkably incident-free race unfolded in which 21 of the 32 starters (two short of the new reduced maximum after a couple of non-runners) completed, most of whom were still in contention on the long run from three out.

The most notable of the four who unseated was last year’s winner Corach Rambler who blundered at the first and then fell when loose at the next.

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After saving every yard up the inner under a patient ride in mid-division, I Am Maximus was produced to lead after being switched approaching the Elbow and stormed clear to win by seven and a half lengths, such a clear-cut margin seeming most unlikely given how many were still in close touch jumping the last.

The older trio who chased I Am Maximus home – Delta Work, Minella Indo and Galvin – are all Grade 1 winners who’ve been Gold Cup horses in the past – Minella Indo the 2021 Gold Cup winner and 2022 runner-up – and while all three would have contested the Cross Country at Cheltenham had it taken place, they contributed to a high-class result overall which ran deeper than just the winner.

With a minimum BHA rating of 146 needed just to make the cut for this year’s National, it points to a much ‘classier’ type of horse being needed for the race nowadays rather than the dour, and often older, staying handicappers of the past.

That begs the questions of how I Am Maximus himself would fare in a Gold Cup. His new rating still leaves him with a stone to find against 181-rated stable-companion Galopin des Champs but while a Gold Cup might put more pressure on his jumping technique, he looks closer to that level now than when finishing well adrift of that rival in both the Savills Chase and Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown in the winter.

At the very least, he adds to an apparent embarrassment of riches for J. P. McManus with his promising young staying chasers. Mullins trains another of them, Fact To File (164p), who’s currently second in the ante-post Gold Cup betting after his latest win in the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham.

But another to advance his claims at Aintree last week was the Gavin Cromwell-trained six-year-old Inothewayurthinkin (158p) who followed up his wide-margin success in the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir at Cheltenham with a clear-cut success in the Mildmay Novices’ Chase.

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