Grounds for Henderson concern

  • Last Updated: April 1 2014, 18:18 BST

Nicky Henderson says he still intends to be four-handed in the Crabbie's Grand National with Triolo D'Alene, Hunt Ball, Shakalakaboomboom and Long Run, although he admits at least three of his team would prefer slightly quicker conditions, with the track now good to soft after rain on Monday night.

Nicky Henderson: Hopes to break National duck
Nicky Henderson: Hopes to break National duck

All four Henderson contenders completed their preparations with flying colours on Tuesday morning.

He said: "I think it's bound to be on the soft side - they'll make it that way.

"For Triolo, Hunt Ball and Shaka all three of them want good ground, but they are probably not going to get it.

"Long Run will cope with softer ground more than the others possibly. I accept they want to slow the ground down, but I hope not too much.

"They all finished their work this morning. They all schooled again. All went well and their prep is more or less finished."

The champion trainer is still seeking his first Grand National triumph, having had two seconds including Zongalero, who was his first runner back in 1979.

Donald McCain, on the other hand, followed in his late father Ginger's footsteps by getting on the roll of honour with Ballabriggs in 2011.

He will be double-handed with Across The Bay and Kruzhlinin, who will go for the big one rather than the Betfred TV Handicap Chase on the same card.

"He's aiming to run in the National, he's grand. I don't know who rides him yet," said the Cheshire trainer.

"Across The Bay is in good form as well and we're happy with them."

Following Monday's five-day stage at which 65 were confirmed, connections of those directly below the top 40 will be hoping for withdrawals by the final declaration stage on Thursday.

A random ballot for those on the same weight at the cut off point has been made with the David Pipe-trained Swing Bill in pole position followed by Goonyella, Soll, Night In Milan, Minella For Value and Saint Are.

Tony McCoy, who ended his National hoodoo on Don't Push It in 2010, is unlikely to make a decision on his ride until final declaration time.

The record-breaking champion jockey is poised to choose between Irish challengers Colbert Station and Double Seven, both of whom are owned by JP McManus.

But McManus' racing manager, Frank Berry, told the Guardian that McCoy was expected to make up his mind "about half an hour before the jockeys have to be declared".

Berry said: "Double Seven wouldn't want a lot of rain.

"Colbert Station, any rain wouldn't matter to him, he'd handle any ground, which Double Seven wouldn't."

McManus is also likely to be represented in the great race at Aintree on Saturday by the Jonjo O'Neill-trained Lost Glory, but he seems unlikely to be on McCoy's radar.

Berry said: "He hasn't set the world on fire. It's hard to fancy him."

Trainer Liam Cusack is hopeful of a big run from his big-race hope Last Time D'Albain.

The 10-year-old showed a liking for the big Aintree fences when finishing third in the Topham Chase last year and Cusack is hopeful that the son of Sassanian will stay the four mile and three and half furlong trip, having schooled well over the replica National fences at the Curragh last week.

During his time in the saddle, Cusack rode Ebony Jane to finish fourth behind Miinnehoma in the 1994 National.

"Last Time D'Albain has come out of his last race really well and we're hopeful of a good run," he said.

"He schooled over the National-type fences at the Curragh on Friday and we were very pleased with him. We're hoping Robbie Colgan will ride him but that won't be confirmed until Thursday.

"We're bringing him over on the 8am ferry on Wednesday morning as we wanted to give him a bit of time to settle in. We brought him over a bit later last year but I think that arriving the day before racing will benefit him.

"We're hopeful the trip will suit in the National. The Topham trip might just be a bit too sharp for him nowadays and he stayed the three miles very well in the Paddy Power Chase last season. We're a bit in the dark when it comes to the distance but so are a lot of other horses in the race.

"He showed that he liked the fences last year. He jumps well so if he gets into a nice rhythm, then he could easily run a big race. He's definitely the best horse I've had so far."

Kim Bailey, who won the Grand National with Mr Frisk 24 years ago, believes The Rainbow Hunter offers punters "unbelievably good value".

The 10-year-old gelding unseated his jockey at the Canal Turn last season but returns to Merseyside in fine spirits, having claimed the Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster on his last outing in January.

Bailey told the Telegraph: "He's not a Mr Frisk. For a start he's only 16 hands.

"He is very small, but he is agile and never made a semblance of a mistake last year. It wasn't his fault the jockey got knocked off.

"He has as much chance as anything else.

"He's in good form. I'm very happy with him and Aidan (Coleman) rode him in Lambourn on Friday and was happy with him.

"He was 50-1 last year, he's 33-1 this year and I think that's unbelievably good value. He's got class and he'll stay."

As the market intensifies ahead of Saturday's race, Michael Scudamore's Monbeg Dude was the one most punters were interested in on Tuesday.

Given his royal connections, a fairytale outcome could await for racing and punters alike.

Part-owned by former England rugby union player Mike Tindall, who is married to the Queen's granddaughter Zara Phillips, the nine-year-old is a former winner of the Welsh National and landed a competitive handicap at Cheltenham earlier in the season.

His price was cut across the board, with William Hill as low as 10-1 from 14-1 following what was described as a "wave of support" and the Leeds-based firm expect him to challenge for big-race favouritism on the day. Sky Bet make him a 12/1 chance from 14/1 - clear second-favourite behind Teaforthree.

"I couldn't tell you where the money is coming from," said Scudamore.

"He's in the best shape we've ever had him, but this race more than any other is the one in which you need plenty of luck.

"Paul (Carberry) sat on him during Cheltenham week and popped him over a Grand National fence then.

"He knows him well, he's not going to gain anything else by coming over this week to to ride him."

Clerk of the course Andrew Tulloch reports the weather forecast to remain unsettled in the build-up to the race.

He said on Tuesday afternoon "I have just walked the courses and left the going descriptions as they were this morning.

"There have been drying conditions today after the welcome rain last night. The weather forecast remains unsettled at least until the start of the Crabbie's Grand National Festival on Thursday, with 4mm of rain expected tomorrow.

"The courses are in great shape and we will move the hurdles and bends on the Mildmay & Hurdle Courses respectively after each day's racing to provide fresh ground on those two courses."

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