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Aintree Grand National 2011 

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Nicholls Enters Ten for Grand National
02/02/11

Paul Nicholls looks set to launch the biggest numerical assault on the John Smith’s Grand National as he bids to break his duck in the world’s most famous chase. The five-time champion trainer, who has had 48 John Smith’s Grand National runners, accounts for 10 of the 102 entries revealed today for this year’s race, worth a record £950,000 and run at Aintree on Saturday, April 9 .

Neptune Collonges
© Grossick Racing Photography

Neptune Collonges

Neptune Collonges (25/1 with totesport , official betting partner of the 2011 John Smith’s Grand National meeting), an easy winner of Saturday’s Grade Two Argento Chase at Cheltenham under McCoy, is the highest-rated of Nicholls’ powerful entry that also includes the eight-year-old What A Friend (33/1), who is part-owned by Sir Alex Ferguson and won the Grade One totesport Bowl at Aintree last year.

The Tother One (40/1), who finished fourth to Neptune Collonges at Cheltenham, last year’s Argento Chase winner Taranis (33/1), the 2010 John Smith’s Grand National ninth Tricky Trickster (40/1) and Niche Market (20/1), who was pulled up last year, are among Nicholls’ other entries.

Ballabriggs
© racing-images.co.uk

Ballabriggs
Donald McCain, whose father Ginger trained four John Smith’s Grand National winners, has the current ante-post favourite for this year’s race in Ballabriggs (16/1 favourite with totesport), a winner over hurdles at Ayr on Monday. McCain has also entered Sir Robert Ogden’s recent Doncaster winner Sagalyrique (66/1) and Khachaturian (66/1), who has had to miss his last two intended starts due to inclement weather.

Don’t Push It (20/1), who carried 11st 5lb to victory last year, along with Welsh National hero Synchronised (20/1) and Can’t Buy Time (20/1), who fell in last year’s race, are three entries for trainer Jonjo O’Neill and owner J P McManus. Indeed, McManus - enjoying his first John Smith’s Grand National win last year - has three other entries - the recently-purchased Quolibet (50/1), trained in France by Francois Doumen, as well as Arbor Supreme (33/1) and Quiscover Fontaine (40/1), representing Willie Mullins.

Raiders from across the Irish Sea have won half the last 12 runnings of the John Smith’s Grand National and Mullins, successful with Hedgehunter in 2005, is responsible for nine of the 34 Irish-trained possibles this year, including The Midnight Club (20/1), who finished second in last week’s Thyestes Chase at Gowran Park.

One trainer bidding for glory with his first runner in the world’s most famous chase is County Tyrone-based Barry Potts, who has taken charge of Notre Pere (25/1), winner of the 2008 Welsh National and 2009 Grade One Guinness Gold Cup at Punchestown for owners Pat and Tilly Conway.

The 10-year-old most recently finished down the field in the Grade One Lexus Chase at Leopardstown after Christmas and but previously ran a good fifth behind Hello Bud (20/1) in the totesport.com Becher Chase over the Grand National fences at Aintree in November.

"The John Smith's Grand National is definitely the aim for Notre Pere. He came to me just after the Lexus Chase and the owners hope that the change of scenery will do him good. We will probably look to give him one run over hurdles and then head straight to Aintree with him,” said Potts.

"I did his pre-training before he went to Jim Dreaper’s and he has always struck me as the kind of horse who was made for Aintree - he is such a monster and he seems to jump normal fences so effortlessly.

"He looked like he needed a change after running in the Lexus Chase but his run over the National fences in the totesport.com Becher Chase was very good considering he was hampered several times. I know that the best of his form is on softer ground but he has also won a Grade One chase on good to yielding and the Grand National is a long old haul.

"I have been training for the Conways since August. I've trained a winner, Niki Royal, for them between the flags but I can't believe that I have been given a horse as good as Notre Pere."

Comply Or Die
© racing-images.co.uk

Comply Or Die
Among the other Irish-trained entries are the Edward O’Grady-trained Tranquil Sea (33/1), winner of the Grade One John Durkan Memorial Chase at Punchestown on his latest start, Noel Glynn’s stable star Becauseicouldntsee (25/1), the Martin Lynch-trained Oscar Time (25/1), a likely mount for leading amateur Sam Waley-Cohen, and the Gordon Elliott-trained Backstage (33/1), who unseated his rider in the 2010 race and is again being targeted at Aintree this year.

The 12-year-old Comply Or Die (50/1), who won the 2008 John Smith’s Grand National and finished second a year later, is one of five representatives for trainer David Pipe, while Nigel Twiston-Davies - successful in the 1998 race with Earth Summit and four years later with Bindaree - also has a quintet of entries, including Hello Bud and BetVictor Gold Cup winner Little Josh (50/1).

Tidal Bay
© racing-images.co.uk

Tidal Bay
Tidal Bay (40/1), winner of the 2008 Grade One John Smith’s Maghull Novices’ Chase at Aintree, is one of five entries from trainer Howard Johnson, while other classy entrants include the 2010 third State Of Play (25/1), who is set to make his seasonal debut in the John Smith’s Grand National for handler Evan Williams, and last year’s fourth, Big Fella Thanks (20/1), who has joined Ferdy Murphy’s stable.

Last season’s Scottish Grand National hero Merigo (20/1) is set to represent trainer Andrew Parker, the Neil Mulholland-trained totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup contender Midnight Chase (20/1) has also been given an Aintree engagement, while Chief Dan George, (33/1) from Jimmy Moffatt’s stable, totesport.com Classic Handicap Chase winner West End Rocker (25/1), representing trainer Alan King, and Silver By Nature (25/1), trained in Scotland by Lucinda Russell, add further class to the 2010 entry.

There are three French-trained entries. The top-class three-time Grade One winner Or Noir De Somoza (50/1) could represent trainer Jean-Pierre Totain, Quolibet has long been considered a National horse, while Quezac De La Roque (66/1), from Francois Cottin’s stable, completes the trio.

Julian Thick, Managing Director at Aintree Racecourse, commented: “With £950,000 in prize money, the 2011 John Smith’s Grand National will be the most valuable Jump race ever staged anywhere bar Japan and we are thrilled to have such a competitive entry.

“Like everyone in the racing world, we were delighted to see Tony McCoy voted 2010 BBC Sports Personality of the Year winner following his John Smith’s Grand National success on Don’t Push It and no doubt the 2011 race will throw up more fairytale stories.

“Along with a string of classy contenders trained across Britain, we have attracted a particularly strong entry from Ireland as well as three French-trained contenders including the top-class Or Noir De Somoza.”

The countdown is now well underway to Saturday, April 9, and British Horseracing Authority Handicapper Phil Smith will no doubt be burning the midnight oil in the coming fortnight as he frames the John Smith’s Grand National weights.

Weights for the 2011 race are announced at the 2011 John Smith’s Grand National Official Launch at the Intercontinental Hotel in London on Tuesday, February 15, and the two scratchings deadlines are on March 1 and March 22. The five-day confirmation stage for entries is on April 4, with final declarations (when there can be up to four reserves) at 10am on Thursday, April 7. There is a maximum field of 40 for the John Smith’s Grand National.

The 2011 John Smith’s Grand National Meeting runs from April 7 to 9 and features top-class racing on each day. Tickets and hospitality packages are still available. Visit www.aintree.co.uk for further information or call 0844 579 3001.

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