David Pipe’s Junior remains a rock solid 10/1 joint-favourite to win the John Smith’s Grand National alongside the Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Synchronised, but supporters of the popular stayer will point to the fact that he is a definite runner whereas no decision has yet been made about the participation at Aintree of the Jonjo O’Neill-trained blue riband hero, writes Elliot Slater.
Should O’Neill and Synchronised’s high profile owner JP McManus decide against risking their surprise Gold Cup winner, there would certainly be a readjustment in Grand National bets for ‘the world’s greatest steeplechase’ that would see Junior’s odds tumble, so plenty of punters will already be looking to ‘get on’ just in case Junior’s main market rival fails to show up on the big day.
Junior has been trained all season with a bid for the Grand National as his only target having last term been very strongly fancied for the big race after making a mockery of the handicap when running away with the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup at the Cheltenham Festival, scoring by a ridiculous 24 lengths. That success however came after the publication of the Aintree weights and resulted in Pipe’s versatile performer missing the cut, leaving a trail of heartbroken racing betting fans in his wake.
This year, running off a much higher mark, there was never a chance that the Middleham Park Racing syndicate’s charge would miss out, and after enjoying an extended break he shaped well on his reappearance over hurdles at Newbury in early-March before running a tremendous Grand National trial in failing by just a short-head to concede 22lbs to the very progressive Ikorodu Road in the valuable Grimthorpe Chase at Doncaster last month, a race he would surely have won had he not been very badly hampered by a faller at the final fence.
Pipe won the National as recently as 2008 with Comply or Die, and in Junior he has a deadly serious contender for a repeat performance.