If determination had anything to do with it, Tony McCoy would have satisfied that craving for a first National winner years ago.
As it is, he rides Don't Push It today knowing that every misfortune that has contributed to 14 previous failures must be redressed in one hit. But at least his performance in the John Smith's Melling Chase yesterday showed that the champion is in the right form to turn all possible odds in his favour.
As at Cheltenham last month, Albertas Run came up with a generous response to McCoy in full cry. Having run down the rejuvenated Monet's Garden, they then saw off Forpadydeplasterer, runner-up for the fifth time in five starts this season, by a little over three lengths. "Good ground is a huge help to him," McCoy said. "He's a real confident horse on good ground. When the ground is tacky, he just loses that spring and finds it hard work.
"When he gets good ground he's got loads of bottle," he added, "and really attacks his fences."
That is precisely what he will be seeking from Don't Push It, trained like Albertas Run by Jonjo O'Neill – himself a man overdue better fortune in the National. "JP [McManus] had four runners and it was a very tough decision," McCoy said. "King Johns Castle has not performed since he was second here a couple of years ago. Arbor Supreme is shortest in the betting, but I'm just not sure he's an ideal National type. If I wanted a nice, safe ride to get round I would have picked Can't Buy Time, but Don't Push It just has a bit more class.
"He has loads of ability – unfortunately he never runs two races the same. But he won at the meeting last year and if he shows up on the day he could run a real good race."
A tragic fall claimed Schindlers Hunt in the same race, leaving trainer Dessie Hughes seeking a replacement for his jockey Paddy Flood, who unfortunately broke his collarbone, on Vic Venturi in the big one today. Hughes has booked Roger Loughran for the ride.
Yesterday's race over the big fences, the John Smith's Topham Chase, was won in emphatic fashion by Always Waining under Brian Hughes – though the race was set up by some spectacular jumping from Frankie Figg, who raced clear for a long way and had only just been joined when unseating two out.