Burton Port is undoubtedly one of the classiest acts amongst the remaining 59 entries for the John Smith’s Grand National run at Aintree on April 14, but no decision has yet been made by trainer Nicky Henderson and the gelding’s owner Trevor Hemmings as to whether or not the Cheltenham Gold Cup fourth will be allowed to take his chance in the big race, writes Elliot Slater.
Having been off the track for 15 months prior to his excellent reappearance effort when he so very nearly overhauled his stable companion and Gold Cup favourite Long Run in the Grade 2 Betfair Denman Chase at Newbury in February, many observers were concerned that the talented eight-year-old might ‘bounce’ when he contested the Gold Cup itself just four weeks later, but in the event Burton Point ran a fine race, holding every chance at the second from home before being unable to quicken going to the last and eventually fading into fourth place behind the relentless Synchronised, The Giant Bolster, and the defending champion Long Run.
That effort certainly suggested that the gelded son of Bob Back is not over-burdened despite the steadier of 11st 7lbs, and he represent a serious chance for his tremendously popular trainer to win the one big race that has exceeded his grasp so many times since he first tried to win the ‘world’s greatest steeplechase’ back in the 1980’s. The Grand National is also the race that means more than any other to his owner, Trevor Hemmings, brought up in the Liverpool region and already having had the tremendous thrill of winning the race twice before, with Hedgehunter in the 2005 renewal, then again 12 months ago when his Ballabriggs stayed on bravely to win for Donald McCain.
Ballabriggs (Grand National 2012 betting: 14/1) will certainly be back to try and defend his crown, but should Burton Port (Horse race betting: 20/1) also line up before the starter, Hemmings will once again have a serious chance of returning to the hallowed Aintree winners’ enclosure.