Grand National Jockeys – AP Mccoy Tony Mccoy

Can 2009 be the year for AP?

When Frankie Dettori finally won the Derby after 15 attempts, the bookmakers faced a multi-million payout. But that will be dwarfed if and when Tony McCoy finally wins the Grand National. 2009 will be McCoy’s fourteenth attempt to win the race, the one remaining omission from the champion’s CV.

Being retained by JP McManus, McCoy will have the choice to ride whichever of McManus’s seven entered horses he wishes in the race. Reveillez and Hobbs Hill, as good as they have been in the past, are horses whose best days are probably behind them and there is little chance of McCoy choosing either of those if they actually get to line-up at Aintree.

Butler’s Cabin, McCoy’s choice last year, has not performed to anything like his form in 2007 and 2008, with his Cheltenham Festival and Irish National wins seemingly distant memories. On his only performances since last year’s race, namely two poor hurdle performances at Newbury and Kempton, it is hard to know whether he will ever hit those heights again. Despite that huge question mark, he is top-priced 14/1 for the race. To me, that’s too short and it seems another case of a horse being priced on reputation rather than performance on the track. With other McManus entries in good form, Butler’s Cabin fall at Becher’s in the 2008 race (albeit travelling well) and his lack of success this year, it would take a leap of faith from McCoy to return to the horse.

Can’t Buy Time, having run a respectable race, was found out by the hill at Cheltenham in the 4 mile National Hunt Cup so the jury is out on whether the horse will now head to Aintree – even if he does, confidence cannot be high. Another questionable stayer is L’Ami, also outstayed up the hill at Cheltenham in the Cross-Country. Although the horse jumps well, can he really be trusted to last the trip? Add to that the fact that he has already had two goes at the National with little success or apparent enthusiasm and 50/1 seems to be about right about a horse who is unlikely to improve at this stage. So that’s five McManus entries down for the Champ, two to go.

And those two are Garde Champetre and King Johns Castle – both of whom are a best-priced 25/1 to win the race. Kings Johns Castle was second in the 2008 National, ridden by Paul Carberry. No doubt about the horse’s credentials over the National fences, nor his ability to stay the four and a half miles. But having not run since due to injury, there must be a doubt about his fitness and preparation for the race. Trainer Arthur Moore will try and get the horse’s first run of the season into him within the next week or so, but Aintree must seem a long way off right now.

Garde Champetre ran a huge race at Cheltenham, winning the Cross-Country off a mark 21lb higher than his win in the previous Festival, getting stronger the further up the hill he went. Cross-Country races seem to have re-vitalised the horse and McCoy knows he jumps, stays and is a horse with a big heart. In short, he’s ideal Aintree material. Last year, the horse went from the Festival to Punchestown, where he won another cross-country chase but, with a National entry, connections must be very tempted to head to Aintree on the back of this year’s Cheltenham performance. And in what looks like an open renewal of the 2009 Grand National, featuring several well-handicapped horses, Garde Champetre would have every chance.

Assuming the McManus team do decide to head to the north-west for Saturday, 5th April, I reckon it will be Garde Champetre that McCoy chooses to ride – and if that’s the case, watch the 25/1 disappear as the bookmakers fear another multi-million pound payment.

Recommendation : Garde Champetre, 1 pt at 25/1 (general)

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