Nicky Henderson targets elusive Grand National triumph
Leading National Hunt trainer Nicky Henderson has won every major prize except for the Aintree Grand National. When he saddled Zongalero to finish second to Rubstic in 1979 he must have felt that it would surely only be a matter of time before he went one better.
The Tsarevich also finished second in 1987 while Classified and Brown Windsor reached the frame but Henderson is still looking for that elusive victory. Paul Nicholls also endured a frustrating wait before Neptune Collonges won in 2012 so could this be Henderson’s year?
He certainly has one leading contender in Hennessy Gold Cup winner Triolo D’Alene. The French-bred seven-year-old won the Topham Trophy over the big fences in April and stable jockey Barry Geraghty was keen to save him for the National.
In winning the Hennessy, Triolo D’Alene incurred a rise of 11lbs taking him to an official rating of 158. Henderson’s initial thoughts were that he had probably scuppered his Aintree chances but the likely presence of Tidal Bay (rated 168) means that Triolo D’Alene could still only carry 11st in the big race.
Henderson has taken the chestnut out of races at Ascot and Cheltenham recently due to the testing conditions and he also holds a Gold Cup entry. He admits that the Grand National is really his objective and we may not see him back in action until after the weights are published.
Stable companion Long Run is also being aimed at the National after unseating Sam Waley-Cohen in the King George when well beaten. Connections have taken the view that he no longer has the pace for the Gold Cup and the National might be a more suitable target.
The 2011 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner will contest the £100,000 Kempton Park Chase on February 22nd and a decision will be taken after the race. The handicapper has dropped him from a career high of 182 after his Gold Cup victory to a mark of 163.
Henderson also has a third string to his bow in Shakalakaboomboom, ninth in 2012 after leading four from home. He has not raced since but holds an entry in Haydock’s Grand National trial on 15th February.