Races to Watch

Horse Set Out On Trail To Grand National Glory

The Grand National is arguably the most
famous Steeple Chase in the World, run in April each year at Aintree Racecourse
in Liverpool, the Grand National attracts interest from all corners of the
globe and whilst most interest in the race tends to be on the day and days
before the off, connections who have their sights set on their horse running in
the race are already making preparations.

It is usually this time of year that
National Hunt trainers begin to get serious about the prospects of their Grand
National entries
. It is also the time when the Bookmakers begin to
establish the odds for the race which this season, will take place on the 9th
April.

There have already been a number of races
that are usually considered to be “Grand National Trials”, races such
as the Hennessy Gold Cup, the Becher Chase and the December Gold Cup then of
course there is the upcoming Welsh National at Christmas to take into account.

Currently there are five sharing the
honours at the top of the Grand National antepost market with odds of 16/1,
these include winner of the 2011
Grand National
, Ballabriggs, from the yard of Donald McCain. The ten year
old has yet to be seen out so far this season, but the way the McCain yard has
been firing in the UK this season, it stands to reason that he would not be
under any Bookmakers radar.

Ballabriggs in fact did not get going last
season until January, when he won two handicap hurdle races and only had one
spin over the bigger obstacles at Ayr in March before heading for Aintree. It
is understood that McCain will give him a similar route the race this season,
but as far as stable reports are concerned it is all systems go.

Tim Vaughan is another young trainer, like
McCain, who is making a name for himself as a potential top NH trainer. He hit
the jackpot last season with his Beshabar who won the Scottish Grand National
after a titanic tussle with the local Scottish trained entry, Merigo, who had
won the race 12 months earlier. Beshabar is only a second season chaser and
acquitted himself very well when fifth in the Hennessy Gold Cup behind
Carruthers last month at Newbury.

Alan King’s West End Rocker made the
Bookmakers look up when winning the Becher Chase over 3m2f by 22 lengths on 3rd
December at Aintree. It was a huge improvement from when he was pulled up in
November in the Rewards4Racing Handicap Chase at Cheltenham three weeks
earlier. In fact he has won his last three starts when he has completed the
race, but in between, in addition to being pulled up in November, he was
brought down in the Grand National last season and before that he was pulled up
in the Grand National Trial at Haydock Park.

The Fulke Walwyn/Kim Muir Cup winner at the
Cheltenham Festival in March, Junior, is being lined up by the David Pipe
stable for a tilt at the ‘National’ and on the outstanding form he showed when
winning at the Festival in March he would be a very decent contender. Pipe of
course trained the winner in 2008, Comply Or Die and has had a great record
over the years in big handicap chases.

Owner Robert Waley-Cohen and his amateur
jockey son, Sam almost pulled off a unique treble last season, by winning the
King George Chase and the Cheltenham Gold Cup with Long Run and then came so
agonisingly close with Oscar Time to winning the ‘National’. The ten year old
who is trained in Ireland by Martin Lynch gave Ballabriggs a hugely gallant
chase to the line at Aintree last season but had to be content with second
place, finishing just over two lengths adrift. He began his preparation for the
Grand National this season by finishing fourth of five in a 2m7f hurdle at
Thurles three weeks ago where he finished fourth of five behind the very useful
Zaidpour. He will probably take on a similar race again over the next few weeks
before a final preparation over fences before Aintree.

Richard Smith

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