Grand National success? Lambourn trainer Nicky Henderson will bid to land his first £1-million Randox Health Grand National victory at Aintree on Saturday 14th April, with Gold Present (11st 3lb).
Britain’s four-time champion Jump trainer has yet to win the world’s greatest and most valuable chase, having come closest when filling the runner-up position with Zongalero (1979) and The Tsarevich (1987).
He has also had a third (Classified 1986), fourth (Brown Windsor 1990) and two fifths (Classified 1985 and Liberthine 2007).
Gold Present was pulled up in the G3 Ultima Handicap Chase over three miles and a furlong at the Cheltenham Festival on 13th March.
The eight-year-old had previously followed up a handicap success over an extended two miles and six furlongs at Newbury on 2nd December, with a Listed handicap victory over three miles at Ascot on 23rd December.
Gold Present was travelling well when falling at the 12th fence in the 2017 Randox Health Topham Chase over the Grand National fences at Aintree, and connections are keen to run in the 2018 Randox Health Grand National over four and a quarter miles and 30 fences.
Seven Barrows maestro Henderson, hoping for further big-race success following the victories of Buveur D’Air (G1 Unibet Champion Hurdle) and Altior (G1 Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase) at the Cheltenham Festival, reported: “The Randox Health Grand National is definitely the plan with Gold Present.
“He is fine after Cheltenham and he had a trickle of blood from one nose, but he has not shown any more signs of that since.
“We’ve got plenty of time to target Aintree with him because of the longer gap between the meeting and the Cheltenham Festival.
“He has always been a brilliant jumper and he jumped so well at the Cheltenham Festival last year [finished second in the Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase] and that was one of the reasons that we decided to run him over the Grand National fences in the Topham.
“He was running well in the Topham and it wasn’t really his fault or anybody else’s when he fell at the Canal Turn.
“I needed to find out how much he stayed, but we’re hopeful that he should OK regarding the trip. You never really know until you try it.
“Gold Present will be our only runner in the Grand National.”
The 2018 Randox Health Grand National Festival at Aintree runs from Thursday 12th April to Saturday 14th April.
The £140,000 G3 Randox Health Topham Chase which takes place over two miles and five furlongs of the Grand National course on Ladies Day, Friday 13th April.
Henderson is the most successful trainer in the history of the Randox Health Topham Chase, with five wins. His three entries this year are the 2017 fourth O O Seven (11st 5lb), Kilcrea Vale (10st 4lb) and Days Of Heaven (11st 3lb), with 79 horses in total entered for the G3 event.
He explained: “O O Seven will head for the Topham instead of the Grand National and he ran really well in the race last year when he was fourth.
“I think two and a half miles is more his trip and he showed last year that he handles the fences.”
Henderson’s stable stars Buveur D’Air, Altior and Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up Might Bite could also head to Aintree.
Buveur D’Air (2017 G1 Betway Aintree Hurdle, 2m 4f) and Might Bite (2017 G1 Betway Mildmay Novices’ Chase, 3m), both tasted success at last year’s Randox Health Grand National Festival and Henderson is keen to once again target the meeting.
He reported: “The plan is to go to Aintree with Buveur D’Air again (G1 Betway Aintree Hurdle, Thursday 12th April) like last year.
“Might Bite has come out of the Gold Cup well and he also could head to Aintree (G1 Betway Bowl, Mildmay Course, Thursday, 12th April). With the four-week gap this year, we will wait before making a firm decision on his next target.
“Altior could either go to Aintree or Sandown and we haven’t made a decision just yet. I would love to try him over two and a half miles at Aintree (G1 JLT Melling Chase, Mildmay Course, Friday 13th April), but he did have a hard race at Cheltenham, so it might make sense to wait for Sandown.
“None of the horses at Cheltenham had easy races, but the intention is that most of my Cheltenham runners will run again this season.”