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Tidal can keep rest at bay in Grand National

By Chris McGrath

An intriguing contender with a superb Aintree record was confirmed in the mix yesterday for next month's Grand National, though his tilt at the John Smith's-sponsored prize could hardly be termed no-nonsense.

Five days ago Tidal Bay finished sixth in the Gold Cup, albeit 23 lengths behind the winner Long Run. As is his style, he was almost tailed off early but once he had condescended to put his racing head on, nothing stayed on up the finishing hill more strongly.

The enigmatic 10-year-old's talent often seems to exceed his enthusiasm — trainer Howard Johnson is now hoping that the quirky gelding and the National's quirky fences will be a match made in heaven.

“He's come out of Cheltenham grand,” said Johnson.

“He didn't over-exert himself there and he's bouncing. He's jumping as well as ever and those big fences and that longer trip might just be the ticket.”

Tidal Bay has a fine and varied record at the past five Grand National meetings, including runner-up spot in a bumper, victories in a novices hurdle and a top-level two-mile novices chase and, last year, fourth to Big Buck's no less in a Grade One three-mile hurdle.

His class means he is set to carry 11st 9lb in the National — on April 9 — with only last year's winner Don't Push It above him in the handicap.

Johnson added: “He comes alight in races he's never run in before. He's the sort the challenge just might suit.”

Tidal Bay, one of 74 still engaged in the National, prefers some ease in the ground and can still be backed at 50-1.

What A Friend, 12 lengths and two places in front of him at Cheltenham, is vying for third favouritism behind Irish raiders The Midnight Club and Oscar Time, at around 14-1. And one certainty is that his part-owner Sir Alex Ferguson would like to take some glory at Liverpool this year.

Since his lifetime-best Gold Cup effort, What A Friend has been perceived by the market as Paul Nicholls' best chance of winning his first National.

Big Fella Thanks, who was under the champion trainer's care when fourth last year but has since transferred to Ferdy Murphy, is alongside in the betting, and tested the Aintree turf again yesterday in a canter on the course.

“He's strengthened up,” reported Murphy.

“And his two latest prep runs have gone exactly to plan.”

Meanwhile, doctors are to examine the results of an MRI scan before deciding the next course of action for jockey Rodi Greene.

Greene displaced a bone in his neck and is unable to fully manoeuvre his right arm after being unseated in a bad fall in the opener at Lingfield on Monday.

The 41-year-old remains in a special care unit at East Surrey Hospital in Redhill, although he may be moved to St George's Hospital in Tooting if doctors feel an operation is required.

Greene's agent Russ James said: “I've spoken to Rodi's wife, Alison, who is at his bedside. The positive thing that came out of my conversation with Alison is that although he can't move much of his right arm, it is still sensitive and he can feel people touching it.”

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