Belfast Telegraph

Grand National: Run for your money

By Robert Fenton

If the cream comes to the top, then Long Run should have backers licking their lips in anticipation of victory in today's Crabbie's Grand National – the race that brings 600m viewers in front of television screens.

Everyone will find a reason to back their particular fancy, whether on form or because the name of a horse has a particular significance, and prospects of a repeat 66/1 winner like last year's Auroras Encore, is what keeps the romance of the Aintree event alive.

But it's rare to have a Gold Cup and double King George VI Kempton Chase in the line-up but that's what we have in the Nicky Henderson-trained Long Run. Henderson has won every big race except the National – his first runner back in 1979, Zongalero, finished second as did the The Tsarevich in 1987.

However, a leading trainer for the best part of three decades, he's going in with a four-strong hand in Long Run, Hennessey winner Trio D'Alene, who won the Topham Chase over the National fences last year, Shakalakaboomboom and Hunt Ball. And of course the winning prize would put him ahead of Paul Nicholls in the trainer's championship.

And it's Long Run who can deliver. He was kept away from Cheltenham to wait for this and as always, will be ridden by amateur Sam Waley-Cohen. That may not suit the purist but public schoolboy and dental millionaire Waley-Cohen is more than a capable pilot, having ridden the selection in all his successes and himself with a proven record over the bigger fences.

In three National rides, he has finished second and fourth on Oscar Time (2011 and '13) and fifth on the mare Liberthine (2006).

Long Run (14/1) may have his jumping critics, but will have plenty of time to get into a nice rhythm. Staying is not a problem and he'll handle the good-to-soft ground with ease.

Trio D'Alene's run in the Gold Cup three weeks ago is likely to go against him while 'Shaka' despite having course experience, does not look good enough. Staying power is the big question surrounding Hunt Ball over 4 1/2 miles. Henderson has waited a long time for National glory and that should end around 4.30 this afternoon.

An outsider capable of landing this pot of gold is the appropriately named The Rainbow Hunter. Kim Bailey's chaser was going well when unseeding his jockey at the Canal Turn last year and at 50/1, is worth an interest.

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