The 2007 John Smith’s Grand National proved a massive turning point in the fledgling training career of young Irish handler Gordon Elliott when he surprised most observers by sending out the former Paul Nicholls-trained Silver Birch to spring a 33/1 surprise in the ‘world’s greatest steeplechase, writes Elliot Slater.
Most people had written off Silver Birch as a light of former days, but the veteran proved too good for his rivals under Robbie Power and ever since that day Elliott has been dreaming of returning to the hallowed winners’ enclosure at the Liverpool track.
With Backstage ruled out of this year’s renewal through injury he now relies on Chicago Grey and Thararawaat, and it is the former who appears to have much the strongest credentials and who is currently a solidly backed 20/1 shot having shown progressive form this season. People with an online 2012 Grand National free bet will be keeping a close eye on him.
Winner last term of the National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival over a gruelling four miles, there are no stamina doubts about the son of Luso who followed that fine effort at the home of National Hunt racing with a below-par eight to Beshabar in the Coral Scottish Grand National, almost certainly having failed to recover from his exertions at Cheltenham just four weeks earlier. This term Elliott has been keen to ensure his charge will arrive at Aintree in peak condition, and his most recent outing when a rock solid second to the smart Rubi Light in the Grade 2 Red Mills Chase at Gowran Park in February over an inadequate two-and-a-half-miles, should have put the serious Aintree candidate spot on for the big event.
Ideally suited by decent ground and a strong pace, Chicago Grey looks set to enjoy optimum conditions for the big race, and granted luck-in-running seems sure to be there or thereabouts at the business end of the contest.