One of the first names likely to be crossed off as once-a-year punters scroll down the list of Grand National runners over breakfast on Saturday morning might well be the 14-year-old Oscar Time, ridden by an amateur with a double-barrelled name.
But Oscar Time, a 50-1 shot, is no ordinary 14-year-old. Runner-up in the 2011 National and fourth two years later, as well as the winner of the Becher Chase last December, no horse in the field has a better record over the big Aintree fences.
And Sam Waley-Cohen is no ordinary amateur. On Friday he won for the sixth time over the National circuit when steering Rajdhani Express to victory in the Topham Chase, a modern-day record, and away from Aintree has one Cheltenham Gold Cup and two King George VI Chases to his credit aboard Long Run.
Only one horse older than 13, the 15-year-old Peter Simple way back in 1853, has won the National, but Waley-Cohen is certainly not ruling out a famous triumph.
His father, Robert, who owns and trains Oscar Time, suggested after the Becher Chase that his charge does not quite stay the National trip, but Sam begs to differ.
“He didn’t have a great preparation when he was fourth in 2013 and if you take Ballabriggs out of the 2011 race he would have won by 12 lengths!” the jockey said. “The ground is perfect for him and, incredibly given his age, he seems as good as ever. If he settles, I think he has a chance.”
Only 10 of the 30 who started out in the Topham completed the course in an especially incident-packed renewal, but Rajdhani Express, a third successive race victory for his trainer, Nicky Henderson, stayed out of trouble throughout and could be named the most likely winner long before he took full command on the run-in, scoring by 11 lengths from Fairy Rath.Reuse content