Jessica Harrington hopes Lifetime Ambition can lead to Grand National victory

Trainer Jessica Harrington. Photo: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

Adam Morgan

Jessica Harrington has captured many big races in both codes of racing, but the decorated handler could have found an appropriately-named horse to fill the Grand National-shaped void in her trophy cabinet.

Lifetime Ambition is the horse in question – an eight-year-old gelding who comes alive in the spring.

Twice a winner over the larger obstacles, he won a Grade Three at Limerick at this time of year last season, before going on to chase home Capodanno in a Grade One at the Punchestown Festival.

His Aintree credentials were on show during his reappearance in November when given a sighter of the famous green spruce in the Grand Sefton and having finished an eye-catching fourth on that occasion, the rest of his campaign has been geared around a return to Merseyside on April 15.

“He jumped very well and I was delighted with him,” said Harrington. “I just hope the ground is OK, he likes nice spring ground, good to soft would be fine, he doesn’t like that tacky ground though.”

Following his appearance in Liverpool, Lifetime Ambition finished second to fellow Aintree contender The Big Dog in the Troytown at Navan – giving a bold sight in front until an error at the final fence allowed his rival to pass for a three-and-a-half-length victory.

He was then a respectable third to Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Galopin Des Champs in the John Durkan prior to Christmas and has been kept ticking over among useful company in the early stages of 2023.

All roads now lead back to Aintree where Harrington is confident he has the right attributes to thrive over the extended four-and-a-quarter-mile trip.

“He is going to definitely run in the National and Sean O’Keeffe is going to ride him. It’s all systems go.

“He’s a nice horse who stays well,” she added. “All of his form is in the spring of the year and that is when he comes into himself.

“He knows the fences, I think he will stay and he is a horse who will be up there on the front end, hopefully keeping out of trouble, and hopefully the race will get run the way he likes it.”

Harrington is one of the few trainers to do the Cheltenham Festival treble of the Gold Cup, Champion Hurdle and Champion Chase, while her National Hunt haul includes an Irish Grand National thanks to Our Duke in 2017.

The Grand National, however, is one that eludes her.

Despite her long career in the training ranks, it was not until 2019 she had her first runner in the big race when silver medallist Magic Of Light almost did the unthinkable and denied the great Tiger Roll at odds of 66/1.

Magic Of Light returned to Aintree much better fancied in 2021 only to unseat at the fourth, while the same year Jett blazed a trail on the front end for a long way until the petrol tank of the Sam Waley-Cohen-ridden outsider emptied at the second-last.

That small sample size though should not detract from the 76-year-old’s desire to taste success in Merseyside – a victory which would taste all the more sweeter in light of the news Harrington has been battling breast cancer.

“I would be delighted to win it, it is a race I have always wanted to win,” she said.

“Magic Of Light was my first runner in it and since then I’ve had her and Jett run in it in 2021.

“I haven’t had that many runners, but it would be lovely to win one.”