Gordon Elliott, the man who burst into the big time when he sent out 33/1 shot Silver Birch to win the 2007 John Smith’s Grand National, is very optimistic about the chance of his Chicago Grey in this year’s renewal of the great Aintree marathon contest, writes Elliot Slater.
Elliott made the trip over from Ireland to attend the Valentine’s Day lunch at Aintree where the official weights for the April 14 race were revealed by BHA handicapper Phil Smith, and of his three entries amongst a total list of 82 horses who remain in the four-and-a-half-mile feature, it was Chicago Grey’s allocation of 10st 13lbs that brought the biggest smile to the face of the County Meath-based handler. His other two possible runners, Tharawaat and Backstage, received 10st 4lbs and 10st 1lb respectively. Those looking at the latest ante-post Grand National betting odds will be keeping a close eye on things.
Trained with only the Grand National in mind this season, Chicago Grey first leaped into the mind as a potential winner of the ‘world’s greatest steeplechase’ when he landed a tremendous gamble at last season’s Cheltenham Festival where he was brought with a perfectly timed effort by Derek O’Connor, (having been patiently ridden for the first half of the contest), to lead at the final fence and beat subsequent Scottish Grand National winner Beshabar by four-and-a-half lengths in the four-mile National Hunt Chase.
This season the gelded son of Luso has been brought along steadily, looking unfortunate to unseat his rider at the third last when in with a big chance back at Cheltenham on his seasonal bow in October, then running well to be third to the smart Weird Al in the Grade 2 Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby a couple of weeks later. A mid-division finish back at Cheltenham in November and most recently coming home third in the Grade 2 Galmoy Hurdle at Gowran Park in January, have kept the grey ticking over nicely and the current 25/1 shot looks a lively contender for a race that will play very much to his stamina strengths.