As far as quality goes, this season’s John Smith’s Grand National looks to be one of the very best for many years with the likelihood of the Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Synchronised going up against last year’s National hero Ballabriggs, as well as a host of other smart staying chasers in a race that will surely have racing fans across the globe glued to their television sets on April 14, writes Elliot Slater.
Certainly Synchronised is the best handicapped horse in the race despite having to carry top weight of 11st 10lbs. Had BHA handicapper Phil Smith been able to retrospectively handicap the horse on his stunning win at Cheltenham, he would probably have asked Jonjo O’Neill’s charge to carry a stone more than his current mark, but no horse has done the Cheltenham Gold Cup/Grand National double since the legendary Golden Miller in 1934, so the odds are well and truly stacked against the JP McManus-owned star. People betting Grand National money should remember this.
Having given the matter a lot of thought the horse that continues to jump out as a potential winner of the race is the Nicky Henderson-trained Shakalakaboomboom, seventh to Always Waining at Aintree last year in the Topham Trophy but much improved this term and a horse who looks certain to relish every yard of the four-and-a-half mile trip on decent ground. A runner-up to Calgary Bay in the Great Yorkshire Chase at Doncaster in January before occupying the same position in a novice hurdle used as a warm-up for the ‘world’s greatest steeplechase’, the eight-year-old has an ideal weight of 10st 12lbs and will almost certainly be partnered by the excellent Barry Geraghty. Those betting on Grand National will know how good a jockey he is.
Although he has won most of the great prizes in National Hunt racing, Henderson has never saddled the winner of the John Smith’s Grand National, and at a current best offer of 25/1 he looks worth a bet to break his duck with Shakalakaboomboom and guarantee himself the British jumps trainers’ championship in the process.