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Grand National: a look at the stories behind the racecard

by Aidan Elder | April 13, 2012

Nina Carberry

There always seems to be a multitude of interesting backstories behind some of the runners going for Grand National glories. If you fancy knowing a bit more about some of the horses or you’re just looking for a random link to help you pick your National horse, here’s a look at some of the more intriguing tales behind the form for this year’s race

SYNCHRONISED
The 2012 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner is looking to become the first horse since Golden Miller in 1934 to win the Gold Cup/Grand National double in the same season. Owned by JP McManus and bred by his wife Noreen, the 11-year-old is like a fine wine or Tom Jones’ hairstyles, improved with age. The winner of a Welsh and Midlands National already, he’s 15/2 favourite to be added to the Aintree roll of honour.

NEPTUNE COLLOGNES
Another 11-year-old who retains plenty of ability and will be trying to give British champion trainer Paul Nicholls his first win in the great race. Ruby Walsh fancies him and has some high-class form including finishing third to Denman in the 2008 Gold Cup. Owner, John Hales is a director and chairman of Golden Bear Products Ltd. a licensed toy operator that includes Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends, Bagpuss, Basil Brush, Noddy, Sooty and Winnie the Pooh on the books. We would say winning the National would be all his Christmases come at once, but as his Christmases are already pretty profitable, it’s probably small financial potatoes.

SHAKALAKABOOMBOOM
Named after a Bollywood film based on the power plays in the music business, but don’t let that put you off.

Just in his second season as a chaser, the eight-year-old is well fancied to give trainer Nicky Henderson his first win in the race. Has only raced at Aintree once before and finished a down-the-field seventh in the Topham Chase last year. He’ll be ridden by Barry Geraghty who triumphed on Montys Pass in 2003.

ALFA BEAT
Dual Kerry National winner at Listowel when trained by Charles Byrnes and latterly John ‘The Shark’ Hanlon, possibly the coolest named cattle dealer in history. He has only held a licence in Ireland since 2006. Owned by American Irvin S Naylor, one of the leading jumps owners in the States, a former top amateur rider who was paralysed in a fall in the Grand National Timber Steeplechase at Maryland 13 years ago.

JUNIOR
Warmed up with a solid second-place finish behind Ikorodu Road at Doncaster last month. Trainer David Pipe has already won the race with Comply or Die in 2008 while his father Martin won it with Minnehoma for British comedian Freddie Starr in 1994, who celebrated in the winner’s enclosure by munching on a hamster panini. That one may be an urban myth.

He’ll be ridden by Tom Scudamore whose father Peter, despite being champion jumps jockey multiple times, never rode a Grand National winner. Will Tom end the family hoodoo?

SEABASS
Trained by Ruby Walsh’s father Ted and ridden by his sister Katie, Seabass is unbeaten in his last seven starts. Walsh has already won the race with Papillon in 2000 (which Ruby rode). It will be Katie’s first ride in the race and like her now sister-in-law Nina Carberry, is looking to become the first lady rider to win the race.

ORGANISEDCONFUSION
Last year’s Irish Grand National winning combination of trainer Arthur Moore and his niece Nina Carberry will bid to follow in the footsteps of Bobbyjo and Numbersixvalverde in trying to follow up an Irish National win with Aintree success a year later. She recently married to Ruby Walsh’s brother Ted Jr, and the couple held the reception at the Mr. Tayto theme park. There is some cultural translation required here as in Ireland, Mr. Tayto is a five foot tall potato used as the logo for a popular brand of crisps. See, it makes perfect sense.

BECAUSEICOULDNTSEE
Trained and owned by Noel Glynn in Co Clare he was quietly fancied for the race last year but fell early doors at the second fence. The trainer blamed himself saying the horse was too fresh after injury prevented him having a prep-race, but that kind of feels like a barman blaming his excellent bar-keeping skills for a customer’s hangover. A good omen for the yard is that Glynn’s assistant trainer is Jason Titley, who rode Royal Athlete to win the world’s greatest steeplechase in 1995.

ON HIS OWN
Ruby Walsh is going for his third National win on the Wllie Mullins’
trained Thyestes winner On His Own. Owned by business tycoon Graham Wylie founder of the Sage Group, the horse will run for the owner of Newcastle Falcons rugby club Semore Kurdi for the day. Kurdi donated a five-figure sum to Newcastle hospital for a Grand National experience, which included owning one of Wylie’s horses for the day and taking 25 per cent of the winnings if it gets in the top six.

ALWAYS RIGHT
Third in the Scottish National last year but has yet to recapture that form in two starts this season. Trained by businessman John Wade who is no doubt the enemy of vegetable-averse children the world over. Wade left school at 15 and started snagging turnips for £2 a week. He now employs 150, owns 700 acres and trains 40 horses “as a hobby”. A National win would propel him into second in the owners’ prize money list behind the mega-successful JP McManus.

SUNNYHILLBOY
One of four JP McManus entries in the race and comes here in top form after a convincing win in the three mile one furlong Fulke Walwyn Chase at Cheltenham. On that day Richie McLernon guided him to victory by four and a half lengths ahead of another of today’s rivals Becauseicouldntsee. The pair are reunited for an attempt at a high profile double. Third in the Irish National last year behind Organisedconfusion so stamina doubts shouldn’t be an issue.

GILES CROSS
A bold front-runner who is sure to be up at the head of affairs from the start. In a rich vein of form for trainer Victor Dartnell but regular jockey all the starvation and saunas in the world can’t help Denis O’Regan do the weight. In his place, former Gold Cup winning jockey Paddy Brennan slips into the saddle to take a plum ride. Tipped by professional ‘psychic’ tipster Dean ‘Midas’ Maynard.

KILLYGLEN
Was travelling well last year in third when he fell four out as a 66/1 shot. A successful breathing operation and a better race-programme means trainer Stuart Crawford feels he is better prepared this year. Won his first race for three years last month.

BLACK APALACHI
Owner Ger Burke named him ‘black’ based on the horse’s colour and his sister’s apartment in Clearwater, Florida close to Apalachee Bay. If his sister’s choice of location for accommodation in the Sunshine State had been different we could be cheering on Black Spuds or Black Fluffy Landing. He finished second to AP McCoy and Don’t Push It in 2010 but now a 13-year-old who hasn’t raced much recently.

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