Leading Contenders For The 2012 Grand National
The 2012 Aintree Grand National takes place on Saturday 14th April and here's a look at the leading contenders for this year's race.
As far as the antepost market for the race is concerned, there are two that sit jointly at the head of the betting with most Bookmakers finding it hard to split the 2011 winner, Ballabriggs and the David Pipe trained, Junior, impressive winner of the Kim Muir Fulke Walwyn Challenge Cup last March at the Cheltenham Festival. They are both holding their own in the market with odds of 16/1 but there are a number of runners fancied to win what is undoubtedly the best known Steeple Chase in the world.
Trained by Donald McCain, last yearís winner has been raised 10lbs in the weights following that victory and is almost certain to be handed top weight for this seasonís renewal. He has not been seen out so far this season but will have one or possibly two warm up runs before he makes his attempt on becoming the first horse since Red Rum, trained by McCainís late father, Ginger, in 1973/4 to win the Grand National back-to-back. McCain did confirm that whether it is one or two prep runs, his final race before Aintree will be in the Premier Chase at Kelso over 2m7f on 3rd March, a race in which he finished second place in 2011. There's no doubting Ballabriggs ability but whether he can end an almost 40 year trend to win remains to be seen.
Last seen looking to continue his winning streak on the flat in the Ascot Stakes at Royal Ascot last June, Junior has been confirmed as an entry in the Betfred Grand National Trial at Haydock Park on 18th February as his major prep race for the Grand National. The nine year old has been kept under wraps so far this season, but it has always been Pipeís aim to run him in the National, particularly following his hugely impressive, 24 length success at Cheltenham last March and with that form in mind he enters the reckoning for Aintree as one of the main protagonists to win the race in 2012.
It is still uncertain whether the Jonjo OíNeill, JP McManus and Tony McCoy team will attempt for a second victory in the Grand National in three years or try their luck in the Cheltenham Gold Cup against the likes of Long Run and Kauto Star. At present, the nine year old who won the 2010 Welsh National and this seasonís Grade One, Lexus Chase hold entries for both. Proven in dour Handicap and now in Grade One Chases, this horse has plenty about him and he still may yet run in both, much would depend on his effort at Cheltenham but if he does take his chance in the Grand National he has to be respected as undoubtedly the horse with the most class in the race.
West End Rocker
Brought down at Bechers Brook on the first circuit in last seasonís Grand National, West End Rocker has returned this season in great form and has already won the Betfred Becher Handicap Chase over 3m2f over the Grand National fences at Aintree in early December. Trained by Alan King, this 10 year old is sure to get the trip and if in form on the day, should run extremely well.
On His Own
Following his 13 length victory in the Thyestes Handicap Chase earlier this week, On His Own appears now to represent the strongest Irish challenge for this seasonís Grand National. The eight year old has proven his ability over three miles and an extended three miles but has yet to complete a race over the marathon Grand National trip. However, the Willie Mullins yard is confident that he will stay and if he does he could well provide Ireland with its first National winner since Silver Birch in 2007.
Trainer, Henrietta Knight, has always had the Grand National in mind for this big rangy chaser and did not hesitate to confirm the race as his target after he put in a very strong staying display to win, the Sky Bet Chase, with a big weight over 3m recently. This followed up his victory in the Victor Chandler Handicap Chase at Cheltenham a month ago and although he fell early in last yearís National, there is no doubt that the stable believe he can win the race and if his jumping holds up this time around he holds big claims in the race.