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Lucy Wadham is chasing Grand National history

By Keith Hamer

Lucy Wadham is focused on producing Le Reve to run for his life in the Crabbie's Grand National at Aintree on Saturday rather than thinking she might make racing history.

If the eight-year-old lands the world's greatest steeplechase, the Newmarket handler would become only the fourth female trainer to win the National after Jenny Pitman, Venetia Williams and Sue Smith.

She would also bridge an 87-year gap for Newmarket-based runners. The last National winner to hail from the Headquarters of British Flat racing was Gregalach in 1929, trained by Tom Leader. Newmarket was responsible for no less than four winners in the 1920s.

"It is very exciting for the whole yard, but it is a bit nerve-wracking, too," said Wadham.

"I think the owner (Pat Betts) saw it as a no-brainer and that it was the obvious race to go for and I'm happy with that.

"The two that stand out to me are Silviniaco Conti and Holywell, but I think it will be a very good race if everyone who says they are running end up running.

"Obviously the favourite Many Clouds is a very worthy one and will be tough to beat.

"If we get in the first six I will be over the moon.

"It would be fantastic to win it, but I don't dare think about that yet, I just want to get him there in good shape."

Last year's winner Many Clouds heads 87 horses left at the five-day confirmation stage.

Connections of the Oliver Sherwood-trained nine-year-old have geared his campaign around a return trip to Liverpool and he is reported to be in tip-top shape to repeat his 2015 triumph.

Should he be successful, he will become the first horse since the great Red Rum to record back-to-back victories in the world's greatest steeplechase 42 years ago.

Many Clouds showed he is in no mood to give up his crown without a fight by landing an impressive victory at Kelso four weeks ago. He has to carry top weight, but is by no means overburdened.

A maximum field of 40 is allowed and the last horse currently guaranteed a run is The Romford Pele, trained by Rebecca Curtis. The Tom George-trained Saint Are, runner-up 12 months ago, has moved into those coveted places. Shutthefrontdoor, fifth 12 months ago when giving Sir Anthony McCoy his final ride in the National, is one of three definite runners carrying the JP McManus colours.

Gilgamboa and Gallant Oscar are the other two contenders, while connections will have to wait until the final declaration stage to see if Cheltenham winner Cause Of Causes makes the cut.

Because of the uncertainty, riding plans have yet to be finalised.

"They are all good - Gallant Oscar, Gilgamboa and Shutthefrontdoor - and we are waiting on Cause Of Causes if he gets in," said Frank Berry, racing manager to McManus.

"Barry Geraghty, Mark Walsh and Aidan Coleman will ride three of them, but we don't know who rides what at the minute."

Class is of the essence in this year's renewal, with Silviniaco Conti attempting to transfer his excellent form over regulation fences to the unique obstacles of the National.

His trainer Paul Nicholls has other likely contenders in Wonderful Charm, Rocky Creek, Unioniste, Just A Par and Black Thunder as he seeks to hold on to the champion trainers' crown.

One of the best-backed horses in recent weeks has been The Last Samuri, trained by Kim Bailey who won the great race with Mr Frisk 26 years ago.

The National is a glaring omission from Nicky Henderson's big-race victories and the Seven Barrows trainer hopes to put that right with one of his two possibles - Triolo D'Alene and Hadrian's Approach.

Several old favourites and horses with proven National form are not yet in the top 40.

They include the 2014 winner Pineau De Re and Alvarado. Willie Mullins is going all out to wrest the UK trainers' title and pins his hopes of winning the National for a second time after Hedgehunter in 2005 with On His Own, Sir Des Champs, Boston Bob and Ballycasey.

Belfast Telegraph


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