Horse vying for the Cheltenham Festival and Grand National double this year
We are now just a matter of weeks away from the Grand National, which is a race that catches the imagination of the public like no other in the UK.
The weights for the 4m4f steeplechase were released last week, which gives us a better indication of who might run in the race and who has the best chance.
Before the Aintree Grand National meeting, though, there is the Cheltenham Festival next month, when festival tips and betting advice can be found on good preview sites. Very few horses have won at Prestbury Park and then gone on to win the Grand National. Here are some of the runners who are attempting to make history this year by completing the double.
Spring Heeled (Ultima Business Solutions Handicap Chase)
Spring Heeled is near the top of the betting for the Grand National with the bookmakers. Jim Culloty has never won the flagship event at Aintree racecourse as a trainer but he did ride Bindaree to victory over the big fences in 2002.
Culloty has an excellent chance to do the rare double of riding and training the winner of the contest this year with Spring Heeled who he is confident can run a big race in his first attempt at the Grand National.
In his two runs so far this season, Spring Heeled finished fourth in the Galway Plate and then followed that up with another fourth place in the Bobbyjo Chase at Fairyhouse, a race which has been used as a Grand National Trial by many horses in Ireland in the past.
Before his expected trip to Aintree, Culloty’s runner is expected to appear in the Ultima Business Solutions Handicap Chase, which is a Grade Three contest over 3m1f at the Cheltenham Festival on day one of the meeting.
Pineau De Re (Pertemps Network Final)
Last year’s Grand National winner Pineau De Re will almost certainly be back to defend his crown at Aintree in April and become the first horse since Red Rum in 1974 to successfully do so.
In his three outings so far this season, Dr Richard Newman’s runner has featured over hurdles and he may continue to do that at Cheltenham in the Pertemps Network Final, where he is quoted at 20-1 by the layers ahead of the Festival race.
At the age of 12, Pineau De Re is the oldest horse which is entered for the 3m hurdle contest. There is no doubt the Grand National is the priority this year but connections will have their horse in his best shape for Prestbury Park if they believe he could pick up some decent prize money.
If he does make it into the Pertemps Network Final, he will be looking to go two better than 12 months ago where he finished third behind Fingal Bay and Southfield in a tight finish where less than half a length separated the first three home.
Soll (Kim Muir Challenge Cup)
At the age of 10, Soll now qualifies for the Veterans’ Chase Series which he took advantage of to score at Exeter earlier this month over 3m.
The plan this season for the David Pipe’s runner is to peak for Aintree with the Grand National in mind in April. However, before then, he is set to enter the Kim Muir Cup at Cheltenham where is he is generally priced at 16-1 to score in what would be his second appearance at the meeting. His first appearance was in 2012 when he was brought down in the National Hunt Chase for amateur riders only.
Monbeg Dude (Ultima Business Solutions Handicap Chase/Kim Muir Challenge Cup)
Former Welsh Grand National winner Monbeg Dude has his options open at the Cheltenham Festival as he has multiple entries where he is likely to run in either the Ultima Business Solutions Handicap Chase or the Kim Muir Challenge Cup.
Ever since his success at Chepstow in the Welsh version of the Grand National, Aintree has been the target.
In his first run in the Grand National last year, Michael Scudamore’s runner finished a respectable seventh behind Pineau De Re where he proved his jumping was good enough for the test of the big fences.
His run at Cheltenham next month will be his fifth run of the season where he is still bidding for his first victory of the campaign.
Teaforthree (Foxhunter Chase Challenge Cup)
At the age of eight, Teaforthree was flagged up as a potential Grand National winner of the future when he scored in the National Hunt Chase at the 2012 Cheltenham Festival over 4m. He is set to return to the meeting this year for the Foxhunter Chase, which is the Gold Cup for amateur jockeys.
After Prestbury Park, the welsh-based horse in the Rebecca Curtis stable is likely to appear in the Grand National again for his third run. He was third in his debut in 2013 but unseated Nick Schofield in 2014 when he was the 10-1 joint-favourite.
With the experience of two races over the bigger obstacles under his belt, many people are tipping Teaforthree to go close once again this year in the people’s steeplechase.
First Lieutenant (Ryanair Chase)
2011 Cheltenham Festival winner First Lieutenant is set for big couple of months in March and April as he is set to compete in the Ryanair Chase and the Grand National at Aintree.
The Gigginstown House Stud-owned horse was second in the Ryanair Chase in 2013 when beaten by Cue Card. If successful this year, he will give his owners a win in the race they sponsor at the meeting.
There has been some talk in the past about this horse running in the Cheltenham Gold Cup over the longer trip of 3m2f. However, connections are desperate to win the Ryanair Chase with one of their own horses so they have resisted the temptation of going for the Blue Riband contest.
It is the first time First Lieutenant has been entered in the Grand National and if he does line up at Merseyside, he will have to carry one of the biggest weights. That is because he is near the top of the ratings for those involved in the steeplechase over the larger obstacles.
Carlingford Lough (Cheltenham Gold Cup)
by Paolo Camera
In what is set to be 19-time Champion Jockey Tony McCoy’s final season in the saddle, Carlingford Lough could play a big part in writing the final chapter in the career of the greatest national hunt jockey to ever live.
McCoy has already indicated he will ride John Kiely-trained Carlingford Lough in the Blue Riband event at the Cheltenham Festival where he is generally a 10-1 shot. His odds suggest he has an excellent chance of winning the Gold Cup which could then play a huge part in his decision over which horse to ride in the Grand National.
At this stage, it looks like it is a straight decision split between Carlingford Lough and Shutthefrontdoor for the Champion Jockey. If he chooses the former, his mount will have to defy all the stats which go against him for horses carrying top weight in the race. Shutthefrontdoor, on the other hand, may not have to carry the crippling weight, but he is a long behind Carlingford Lough in the ratings.