Outsider offers Esprit for punters

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The Independent Online

Grand National odds of 50-1 look mean when you study the 2FPP40 form figures recorded by Esprit De Cotte this season. But a look at the name of his trainer and jockey makes the price very tempting. Then have a chat with the jockey himself and you could break into a run to get to the betting shop.

Nicky Henderson and Mick Fitzgerald were by far the most successful combination at last month's Cheltenham Festival. In any race it is rare for one of theirs to be among the ''rags''. So can Esprit De Cotte be as poor as bookmakers believe?

''You have to remember that this horse has been targeted at the National all season,'' Fitzgerald points out. The Irishman concedes he would be riding Fiddling The Facts on Saturday had the Henderson-trained mare (a winter favourite for Aintree) not been retired to the paddocks. But he insists that Esprit De Cotte is not running as a makeweight.

''He's been a little disappointing, I agree,'' Fitzgerald said. ''But he's been trained for Saturday. A bit of rain would help, but we know he stays, he's jumped the big fences at Haydock, and when he ran in the Becher Chase [at Aintree in November] he was travelling well for me until the 12th when he made his first mistake and fell.''

The Tote go 33-1 about the ex-French gelding, but Coral and William Hill were still offering 50-1 last night.