As it turned out Paul Nicholls would have won last year’s trainer’s championship without the significant contribution of Neptunes Collognes last-gasp victory in the Grand National, however this year the Ditcheat saddler will need another Aintree windfall to keep his hands on the crown.
Nicholls stretched clear from Nicky Henderson after last year’s jumping show-piece and although his eventual winning margin was slightly more than the £547,268 gained from the April bounty, there is no doubt that it was the defining result in what had been a fascinating contest between the two British heavyweights. Without that deficit there is little question the Seven Barrows artillery would have been firing all the way to the line.
Despite losing his Festival title to Willie Mullins, Henderson had another extremely successful week in the Cotswolds. Four wins could not compare in quantity to last year’s unprecedented seven visits to the winners’ enclosure, but the quality of the races won was top-rung. Simonsig’s win in the Arkle accompanied successful defences of the Queen Mother Champion Chase and the Gold Cup and after a largely dreadful week for Nicholls, Henderson opened up a significant lead for the first time on £2,429,491 with his foe now stuck just above the 2million mark on £2,031,783.
Neither stable has as strong a hand as in previous years, but if they flipped their cards over now Nicholls would be a warm favourite. Henderson has only 33/1 shot Roberto Goldback from those in the top 28 in the betting, whilst three from Somerset will line-up with Sir Alex Ferguson’s pair Harry the Viking and What A Friend at 40/1 and 33/1 spearheaded by leading fancy Join Together, currently fifth in the betting a 16/1.
There are still many valuable prizes on offer until the end of the season, but when the dust has settled on the final count of this campaign, another Nicholls’ National win could be the all-important read in the record books.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing