Hughes hopes for change of luck at Aintree

So many hazards lie beyond the control of even the most nimble horse or rider in the John Smith's Grand National that it may well make sense to seek safety in numbers at Aintree on Saturday. Certainly, odds of 9-4 against an Irish winner look a very palatable alternative to the bigger odds available against various individual fancies, in what looks a formidable collective challenge this year. Since winning four Nationals between 2003 and 2007, the Irish have endured a three-year hiatus. But they have just celebrated a record-breaking Cheltenham Festival, and account for 13 of the 40 horses currently guaranteed a run on Saturday. These include three of the first four in the betting – The Midnight Club, Backstage and Oscar Time – as well as a series of very feasible outsiders.

Admittedly, the pair sent over from Co Kildare by Dessie Hughes might not be obviously eligible for that latter group, but it would be typical of Aintree were he finally to crack the race just when it looks as though his moment might have passed. As a jockey, he never made it even as far as Becher's Brook. His best chance was Davy Lad in 1977, just 16 days after they had won the Cheltenham Gold Cup. "But he refused at the fourth, I think it was," Hughes said yesterday. "And I could tell it wasn't going to happen even before then. National winners don't often come from the Gold Cup. They've had enough."

As a trainer, he has come a good deal closer, without quite managing to suggest that it might ever be a lucky race for him. Black Apalachi ran his heart out to be second to Don't Push It last year, 20 lengths clear of the third; and had been tanking along in the lead when discarding his rider at Becher's second time round the previous year. Unfortunately, he has suffered a tendon injury and, though Hughes hopes he will be back, he will be 13 next year.

"He was probably very unlucky two years ago," Hughes said. "He did appear to be going very well, anyway. And a few years ago we had Timbera. He'd won the Irish National, and was favourite, but scoped dirty a week before the race and couldn't go. But in fairness the Grand National wouldn't really be a lucky race for too many people. And I'm lucky to have two more to run this time."

At 11, Vic Venturi and In Compliance are both seasoned campaigners – and both ran over the big fences at last year's meeting. Vic Venturi did not get round in the National, but had won the Becher Chase the previous autumn, while In Compliance took really well to the obstacles when sixth in the Topham Chase. "They're ready," Hughes said. "Vic Venturi was going well when he was brought down last year and has been trained for nothing else but this since. We ran him at the Maze [Down Royal] five weeks ago and he ran well enough on the heavy ground, as he'd want it good. In Compliance is definitely on a fair mark, if he found his form. He was unlucky the last day [unseating at halfway at Cork] but he had won nicely at Thurles the time before and has experience of the course, from the Topham last year. He does look nicely in, with 10st 5lb. They're not young horses, but it's no race for a young horse. You want them to be 10, at least."

Leighton Aspell rides In Compliance, while Andrew Lynch partners Vic Venturi (11st 6lb) following the defection yesterday of Notre Pere, for whom the conditions promise to be too fast. Synchronised, another winner of the Welsh National in the mud, was also missing from the 65 acceptors.

It is rather poignant to see Paddy Brennan without a mount, just days after announcing that he had turned freelance – his former employer, Nigel Twiston-Davies, having fast-tracked his sons, Sam and now Willie, during Brennan's tenure as stable jockey. Sam rides Hello Bud, as he did when fifth last year, but Twiston-Davies has booked Wayne Hutchinson and Aidan Coleman respectively for his other runners, Roll Along (a possible absentee after lameness at the weekend) and Grand Slam Hero. The owners of Imperial Commander have committed to Brennan, but their horse will be sitting out the meeting this time.

Turf account


Pegasus Prince (3.40 Pontefract)

Much improved over hurdles since joining Keith Reveley, beaten by just one rival in three starts since the turn of the year, and is able to take advantage of an ancient rating on his return to the Flat.

Next best

Tribal Myth (2.10 Pontefract)

Stable has made a flying start to the turf campaign and this one showed he can go well fresh when beating a well treated rival on his reappearance last season.

One to watch

Informed Award (John Gosden) has a good pedigree and made an encouraging debut at Windsor yesterday, short of room but picking up nicely for third once switched.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions