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Lavelle riding the crest of a wave with Eclair Surf and De Rasher Counter

It has not been a comfortable week for Emma Lavelle, who had an anxious wait to see if Eclair Surf would sneak into the Randox Grand National field.

The eight-year-old hacked up in the Classic Chase at Warwick in January before chasing home the ultra-impressive Scottish National winner Win My Wings in the Eider Chase, beaten just under two lengths to see his rating soar to 147 – a mark off which he would have easily made the cut.

However, Eclair Surf races off 143 in Saturday’s Aintree feature as the weights were framed before the Eider and he started the week needing a handful of horses to withdraw and allow him to join stablemate De Rasher Counter.

Eclair Surf sidestepped Cheltenham in favour of the Grand National
Eclair Surf sidestepped Cheltenham in favour of the Grand National (Tim Goode/PA)

With the defections of Farclas and Caribean Boy on Thursday morning, the Wiltshire handler now has two runners in the race as she bids to become only the fifth woman to train the National winner after Jenny Pitman, Venetia Williams, Sue Smith and Lucinda Russell.

Lavelle said: “It is great that we got Eclair Surf in and that it has worked out, but it has definitely not been the most relaxing week.

“The thing is, if someone decides not to run because they want to run somewhere else, that is one thing. When someone is forced not to run because something has gone wrong, ie Nicky (Henderson) with Caribean Boy, then it is never nice. You don’t jump up and down, because you know how depressing it can be when it happens to you.

“The fact that Farclas wasn’t declared meant that we got in under that basis, so it is great. It is great for the owners, for the team here it is very exciting to think we have two runners in a Grand National, but not just two runners – they are two who have genuine chances and genuine reasons for having chances. It is exciting.”

Win My Wings boosted Eclair Surf's form last Saturday
Win My Wings boosted Eclair Surf’s form last Saturday (Jeff Holmes/PA)

Win My Wings was hiked to a rating of 154 following her Ayr victory and Lavelle was thrilled to see Christian Williams’ mare enhance the Newcastle form, with the trainer feeling her charge is equipped to handle whatever conditions Merseyside has to offer.

“Eclair Surf clearly has a lot of ability and the way that Win My Wings backed that Eider Chase form up by winning the Scottish National, it was really good to see,” said Lavelle.

“The thing with Eclair Surf is that he can handle any ground. But I think his ability to handle very soft ground puts other horses at a disadvantage.

“But in a way, it was reassuring that he ran as well as he did in the Eider (on good to soft) to see that he can handle it and I think Aintree ground will be, no matter what, slower than that.

“We are really happy with him. He has schooled over our version of the National fences at home and you just need luck. He is clearly a horse who has a big engine and a great attitude

“He has a rating of 147 which would have easily got him into the race, so arguably he is sneaking into the race while still well handicapped on a mark of 143. He is 4lb well in.”

De Rasher Counter is a lively second string for Lavelle
De Rasher Counter is a lively second string for Lavelle (Clint Hughes/PA)

Eclair Surf may be the better-fancied of Lavelle’s pair according to bookmakers, but De Rasher Counter has been laid out for the race, having had just two runs since March 2020.

“The Grand National was always the target race for De Rasher Counter from the start of last year,” said Lavelle.

“His whole campaign has been built around this race.”

The 10-year-old, who won the Ladbrokes Trophy Chase in November 2019, was sidelined for 489 days with a tendon injury, before he returned to action at Newbury, finishing fourth in the Denman Chase in February.

“He ran a lovely race in the Denman – we left plenty to work with – but he jumped in his exuberant manner and travelled really well and came out of it really well. He just got a little bit tired, which was understandable,” added Lavelle.

“He has been away since then. He’s done plenty, he looks great and he won a Ladbroke off 149 and he is back to that mark, and I’d have to be really, really happy with how he is.

“Adam Wedge takes the ride as Tom (Bellamy) will ride Eclair Surf. Adam knows him well as he and his partner, Lauren, had him at their place in to do his rehab, trotting on the roads in Wales, so they know him really well.”

She added: “I wouldn’t swap my two for anything else in the race. They both have very live and interesting chances, but they are both going to need luck, as will everything else.”

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