The excitement of the Cheltenham Festival may have passed us by for another year, but attentions have quickly focused on the next big meeting in the National Hunt Calendar – Aintree’s Grand National Meeting.
However, whilst the biggest race in the world is spectacle in its own right, this year it could also have significant bearing on whether Nicky Henderson or Paul Nicholls wins this year’s National Hunt Champion Trainer’s Title.
It’s a battle that very much mirrors the 2015 Trainer’s Title Battle, when Nicholls won the Grand National with Neptune Collonges – and he may well have to win it again this year to retain his Champion Trainer’s Title after he fought off Willie Mullins to win last year’s title.
Although there’s a couple of weeks to the Grand National meeting, Henderson looks sure to head there in the lead in the title race, as he’s currently around £125,000 in front of Nicholls after the Master of Seven Barrows had a much better Cheltenham than the Master of Ditcheat.
Henderson won the Arkle with Altior, the Champion Hurdle with Buveur D’Air and saddled the RSA 1-2 with Might Bite and Whisper, and they could once again spearhead Henderson’s Aintree raiding party, along with many other horse who performed admirable at Cheltenham, as well as a few who have been specially trained for Aintree.
Meanwhile, Nicholls had to rely on Pacha Du Polder winning the Cheltenham Foxhunters to get on the board at this year’s festival, and it seems that Nicholls hasn’t got the strength in depth for the big festivals this year. If that’s the case, then he may find himself several hundred thousand pounds behind if Henderson plunders the likes of the Aintree Hurdle with Buveur D’Air and the big 3-mile novice chase for which Whisper will be a leading fancy.
Therefore, the Trainer’s Title could be won and lost on Grand National, for which Henderson has just two runners entered, whilst Nicholls has 5 entered.
Henderson’s Cocktails At Dawn looks likely to get a run as he currently sits 42nd in the list, and needs just two horse to drop out for him to get a run with a nice low-weight. However, Vyta Du Roc is unlikely to get a run as he’s number 60.
Meanwhile, Nicholls has 5 runners who are all guaranteed a run if the National is their intended target. Saphir Du Rheu has shortened since his fifth in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, as has Wonderful Charm after finishing second in the Foxhunters. However, it is the trio of La Mercurey, Vicente and Just A Par who appeal more. La Mercurey is potentially thrown-in on his form with the ill-fated Many Clouds earlier in the season, whilst Vicente’s stamina is assured after winning last year’s Scottish National. Just A Par is also officially well-in after winning well last time.
However, with the Nicholls runners priced-up at 22/1, 25/1, 50/1, 50/1 and 66/1 – it’s difficult to see why Nicholls is as low as 6/4 to retain his Trainer’s Title, if it’s likely that one of his runners must win the Grand National if he is to do so.
Therefore, the 8/13 for Nicky Henderson to win this year’s Trainer’s Title – looks terrific value.