Rocky Creek eyes Grand National success
If the Melbourne Cup is known as ‘the race that stops a nation’ then the Grand National can only be described as ‘the race that grips a nation’.
All over Britain on Saturday morning the question on everyone’s lips will be ‘who have you backed in the National?’.
Not only here in Britain but across over 140 countries there will be a worldwide audience of over 600 million viewers all tuning in to watch the most uniquely challenging horse race in the world and with the vast majority of them hoping for the same outcome.
The majority of the build up to this year’s Aintree Crabbie’s Grand National has centred around one man, Tony McCoy, who after a shock announcement that he will be retiring at the end of this National Hunt season will take his final National ride aboard the well-fancied favourite Shutthefrontdoor.
The People’s Champion AP McCoy has vowed to retire if he wins the National aboard the Jonjo O’Neill trained eight-year-old.
He said: “I think I’ll probably stop there and then, I think it will probably be the right thing to do.”
This would almost certainly result in possibly some of the most emotional scenes in racing history.
Described by the man himself as the greatest horse race in the world, the 19-time champion jockey would love nothing more than to finish his riding career with victory on the world’s biggest stage for his close friend and boss JP McManus and trainer Jonjo O’Neill, who also supplied his only winner of the race Dont Push It in 2010.
Since winning the Irish National last year McManus revealed this has always been the plan and after a comfortable victory in a Graduation chase at Carlisle in November all the preparation has been geared towards a massive performance around the famous Aintree fences.
He said: “Shutthefrontdoor will be ridden by AP in his last-ever Grand National and he has been laid out for the race all year. He seems to be in good form and, with luck in running, he could give a good account of himself.”
Unfortunately for the retiring champ, fairytales don’t always come true and that is especially true when there is a marathon four-and-a-half miles to run with 30 of the most challenging fences in the world and against 39 other rivals for the biggest jumps prize in Europe of £1million.
This season’s National looks set to be a vintage renewal too with the returning heroine Pineau De Re back for another stab, last season’s Gold Cup winner Lord Windermere topping the weights, this season;s Hennessy Gold Cup winner Many Clouds, and also my main fancy the Paul Nicholls-trained Rocky Creek.
After finishing a very tired fifth in last year’s renewal many observers will have concluded that Rocky Creek failed to see out the mammoth trip.
But after a summer breathing operation he has since highlighted his abundance of stamina with a classy second in a Grade 1 against Road to Riches and a very gusty victory at Kempton in the Betbright Chase and I am certain stamina will not be an issue this time around.
His trainer Paul Nicholls has had a memorable season which must have exceeded even his lofty expectations as he has picked up the most valuable races nearly every weekend throughout the season.
With him targeting Rocky Creek at this race from the minute he finished last year’s race, you can be certain the champion trainer elect has not missed a beat with his main hope for the National.
It is very difficult to say you strongly fancy a horse to win such an impossible race but Rocky Creek is the most confident I have ever been about a National horse.
Two of this season’s Cheltenham Festival winners are also set to line up in this famous race with Cause of Causes and The Druids Nephew going to post.
The Neil Mullholland-trained The Druids Nephew holds the strongest chance going into the race but he can often jump like a snooker table early on in his races and with the unforgiving fences at Aintree he may have it all to do if making a mistake early on.
David Pipe expressed his delight as his main hope Soll snuck in at the bottom of the weights and will be ridden by stable jockey Tom Scudamore.
Soll finished a respectable seventh two seasons ago when trained by Jo Hughes and he has thrived since joining the Pipe yard with successes at Exeter and Newbury this season and must hold a good chance.
Donald McCain will be hoping to continue his families strong affinity with the famous race and he is doubly represented by Corrin Wood and Across The Bay. But after the season he has had I wouldn’t be confident of either of them finishing let alone winning.
Each year the race becomes more competitive so it is impossible to rule any horse out, but let’s not forget this is a spectacular three-day meeting which grows in importance every year and there are some cracking Graded races on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
Fingers crossed all of the horses and jockeys return safe and sound.
Rocky Creek 9/1 Grand National.