Grand National: Sunnyhillboy bidding to make it third time lucky
Irish owner and legendary gambler JP McManus has eight horses among the 73 left in the Crabbie’s Grand National, including Sunnyhillboy who is set to line-up for the third consecutive year.
The Jonjo O’Neill trained 11-year-old has the distinction of being the horse that got beat in the closest ever finish to the Aintree contest.
He got chinned on the line and beaten a nose by Neptune Collonges on his first crack at the National in 2012 having looked to have the race in the bag.
The gelding was then sent off at 20/1 to go one better in last year’s contest won by Auroras Encore, but ran below par and was tailed off when unseating Richie Mclernon at the final fence.
So can he make it third time lucky this year?
Well, there are plenty of positives to say that he can and he is certainly in the right hands.
His owner and trainer have a good record in the race, having sent out Clan Royal to finish placed in 2004 and 2006 before bagging the big prize for the first time in 2010 when Don’t Push It provided champion jockey Tony McCoy with his first winner of the race.
That horse went on to finish a highly creditable third the following year, and there is no doubt that Sunnyhillboy has had his whole campaign geared around the National.
His connections have ran him just twice this season, both times over hurdes to protect his chase mark.
On the latest of those runs he came right back to best when winning a 3m handicap hurdle at Cheltenham back in December, and is now set to race off a mark of 146 in the National – 6lb lower than last year.
His current chase rating is just 4lb higher than when he was beaten by Neptune Collenges and gives him a big chance at the weights.
He is also bidding to become the third 11-year-old in succession to win the race, and that age group have triumphed in eight of the last 30 runnings.
So while McManus may appear to have better chances with the likes of Colbert Station and the improving Double Seven, a case can be made for Sunnyhillboy to run a huge race.
His experience over the unique Aintree fences has to be a plus, and he is clearly on a handicap mark from which he can be competitive.
Good ground come race day on Saturday, April 5th, would also further enhance his chances and he is currently a 33/1 chance with Coral to make it third time lucky.