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Grand National festival

Can Nicky Henderson bounce back at Aintree? Here are five of his Cheltenham absentees to watch out for at the Grand National meeting

Nicky Henderson at the Cheltenham Festival
Nicky Henderson went without a Cheltenham Festival winner for the first time since 2008Credit: Patrick McCann

Nicky Henderson had a torrid week at last month's Cheltenham Festival with his string badly out of form for no known reason and many pulled out of their intended engagements due to those concerns, while the six-time champion trainer had already ruled last season's Champion Hurdle winner Constitution Hill out of his title defence following an unsatisfactory scope and poor blood test results.

However, Cheltenham's loss could be Aintree's gain, and Henderson's team is likely to feature among the major points of interest across the three-day Grand National festival next week. Here are five Seven Barrows stars who could be of interest on Merseyside . . . 


Champ

Was due to line up in the Stayers' Hurdle before being withdrawn and will likely try to make it third time lucky in the Liverpool Hurdle, having finished fifth and third in the last two runnings.

The extra month off can only be a good thing, given his tendency to run his best performances after a break, and he was a comfortable winner of the Grade 1 Sefton Novices' Hurdle on his only other course visit.

He has nine lengths to find with Crambo on their clash at Ascot, but that was Champ's first start after wind surgery, so excuses can be made, while there is no Noble Yeats or Paisley Park to worry about.

Jonbon

Jonbon: won the Tingle Creek at Sandown
Jonbon: won the Tingle Creek at Sandown

Jonbon has been solely campaigned around two miles, winning 12 of his 15 starts, but he could step up in trip to tackle the 2m4f Melling Chase after his withdrawal from the Champion Chase at the festival.

Winner of his sole point, Jonbon, a brother to the high-class Douvan, who successfully stepped up to this trip at the end of his career, should have no issue with the longer trip and is unlikely to have El Fabiolo, who beat him in the Arkle, to worry about.

Shanagh Bob

Shanagh Bob: made it 3-3 over hurdles
Shanagh Bob: possible runner in the Sefton Novices' HurdleCredit: Alan Crowhurst / Getty Images

Bought for £200,000 after winning an Irish point, Shanagh Bob was in the top six in the betting for the Albert Bartlett and will likely be fancied again in the Sefton Novices' Hurdle at Aintree.

He followed a comfortable Plumpton novice victory with a strong staying display at this trip at Cheltenham in December and is still very unexposed after just two hurdles starts.

Shishkin

Shishkin and Nico de Boinville jump clear while winning the Denman Chase at Newbury
Shishkin and Nico de Boinville jump clear while winning the Denman Chase at NewburyCredit: Mark Cranham

Was the shortest-priced British runner in the Gold Cup before being ruled out and will be heavily fancied for a repeat of last year's success in the Aintree Bowl.

He hasn't had an ideal preparation, having refused to race on his intended reappearance at Ascot in November before stumbling and unseating Nico de Boinville when leading in the King George, but he got back on track with a gutsy display in the Denman Chase last time and has strong claims of maintaining his unbeaten track record.

Sir Gino

Sir Gino powers away from the final hurdle
Sir Gino: had been the hot favourite for the Triumph HurdleCredit: JOHN GROSSICK

Rocketed to the top of the ante-post market for the Triumph Hurdle after running out an impressive winner of a Trials day contest and will likely be short again in the Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle.

Winner of a Listed race on his sole French start, Sir Gino bolted up on his British debut by 14 lengths and was just as dismissive of then Triumph favourite Burdett Road when storming away at Cheltenham in January.


Read these next:

Constitution Hill ruled out for the remainder of the season after returning home from veterinary hospital 

What's on this week: Classic contenders begin to emerge as jump season's final month kicks off in style 

Fairyhouse punter has Easter weekend to remember after winning €330,000 from €20 each-way treble 


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Harry WilsonReporter

Published on 2 April 2024inGrand National festival

Last updated 07:02, 2 April 2024

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