All preparations have been made for the Grand National this Saturday, where 40 contestants will be competing for the title.
With only a few days left before the famous steeplechase, trainer Nicky Henderson is very optimistic about the outcome of the event and believes he has his best chance yet of winning the competition at the Aintree Racecourse.
Henderson has won British jump racing three times already and he’ll be entering the Grand National with Long Run, Hunt Ball, Triolo D’Alene and Shakalakaboomboom. However, looking at the odds given by Britain’s online and mobile betting companies, betting on his horses might seem like a risk.
The opportunity of a lifetime?
Based on his many years of experience, the professional horse trainer is confident that each of the four horses entered in the race are “genuinely” fit for the race.
“At the beginning of the season, you either know if you’ve got a National horse or you haven’t,” he told BBC reporters. “This year, I was fairly confident there were two. Triolo D’Alene and Shakalakaboomboom were on the line. Hunt Ball, I didn’t know about because he’s only just come to us and Long Run, we had a change of plan around Christmas time.”
Horses trained by Henderson and competing in the 2014 Grand National:
• Long Run
• Hunt Ball
• Triolo D’Alene
Horses have to run over 30 fences in the four-mile, three-and-a-half furlong race, but Henderson thinks his team is up for the challenge.
“I haven’t gone out to pick four because we haven’t won the National before. This year, we genuinely have four National horses. It’s probably more realistic than it’s been before,” the 63-year-old trainer added.
His team has put a lot of effort into preparing the contestants. The trainer says he has come close to winning the Grand National a few times before and believes this year’s race could bring him a noteworthy title.
“We’ve had several shots at it and been close. It’s the one that’s missing. We’ve been close enough a few times, so it would be nice to win before it’s all over,” he said.
Henderson has been a trainer since 1978 and has won the Cheltenham Gold Cup, Champion Hurdle, King George VI Chase and Hennessy Gold Cup. “The Grand National is completely different as you are asking the horse a different question,” he believes.
The trainer’s first concern is that his team makes it to the end of the race “safe and sound”. He added that the race course has suffered some significant changes. “It is a very different race and much safer, but one is always aware of the difficulty of it and that is why one has to pick the right horse,” he explained.
But next to all of his titles and successes, Henderson also has a controversial chapter in his career. In 2009, the British Horseracing Authority panel found him guilty of breaking the general rules of racing when a mare he trained failed a drug test.
While admitting that his team had administered the horse a prohibited anti-bleeding drug, he claimed it had been done for the horse’s health, and not to enhance its performance. He was fined a record penalty of GBP 40,000.
Is going with Henderson a safe bet?
So why should players who like to bet on sports in the UK put their money on Henderson’s team? For one thing, the pre-race odds give 2011 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Long Run a pretty good chance of winning.
The trainer sure seems to be very confident about his horse’s winning potential. “With Long Run, at Christmas we decided we would take the Grand National route, rather the Gold Cup route. The Gold Cup turned out to be quite a rather odd race, so I kind of regret we didn’t run Long Run in it because of the way it finished,” Henderson added.
According to him, Long Run has everything it takes to become the next Grand National champion: “We decided to keep him cherry ripe for this. He ran well at Kelso, he’s schooled very well, he’s had a practice over Aintree type obstacles and he’s been very good.”
Even if Long Run is a good horse, he will be facing tough competition and it looks like he is not quite the number one favorite. Many think that Henderson is just advertising his own “merchandise”. In any case, make sure you do your homework and study the odds well before heading to your local bookmakers.