Going from Cheltenham to Aintree
The four-week gap between the Cheltenham Festival and the Grand National this year has raised the prospect of a horse going from Gold Cup glory to Aintree success.
Only one horse has done the double in the same season – Golden Miller in 1934 – but several of the leading Gold Cup contenders this year are also entered in the National.
However, before getting carried away by a horse emulating Golden Miller, it is thought unlikely that Many Clouds, Carlingford Lough or Lord Windermere will go on to the National, if they either win or run well in the Gold Cup.
The one possible Gold Cup runner who could then head to Aintree is Sam Winner from the Paul Nicholls. But, taking the Gold Cup itself out of the equation, what are the prospects of a horse running at Cheltenham and then winning the National?
In the past decade, three of the National winners ran at Cheltenham before their success at Aintree. Pineau De Re was third in the Pertemps Final last year and Don’t Push It was pulled up in the same race before winning the 2010 National. Silver Birch, meanwhile, was second in the Cross Country Chase in 2007 before landing the National for trainer Gordon Elliott.
Running at the Festival can certainly leave its mark and it will be interesting to see how the likes of The Druids Nephew, Monbeg Dude and Cause Of Causes come out of their Cheltenham races. That trio are all prominent in the betting for the National.
Yet, when you look right at the front of the ante-post market, you’ll notice that those horses are being kept away from Cheltenham.
Shutthefrontdoor, who is likely to be ridden by Tony McCoy in the champion jockey’s last National before retirement, is going to feature prominently in pretty much any Grand National preview and he is the ante-post favourite. He is swerving Cheltenham, but has been given an entry for Kempton on the Saturday after the Festival. Former Scottish Grand National winner Godsmejudge has been entered in the same race.
Last year’s National runner-up Balthazar King, meanwhile, has been deliberately kept away from the Festival to ensure he is fresh for Aintree, while Rocky Creek, Unioniste and Spring Heeled are also enjoying a rest in their respective boxes.
But running around this time of year itself is not a hindrance when it comes to winning the National as the last 10 winners have all run within two months of the race.
Mon Mome, the shock 100/1 winner in 2009, ran in the Midlands National at the end of Festival week, while Numbersixvalverde ran a couple of days before Cheltenham before going on to win at Aintree.
So what to make of it all? Well, just because a horse has not run for a few months before Aintree is definitely no major advantage when you look at the record of recent National winners. In fact, running either at the Festival or around the same time as Cheltenham has seemed to be a positive for a horse in the National. Probably the only thing to be fairly sure of is that, if a horse runs in the Gold Cup, they are highly unlikely to follow up by winning the National.