Grand National News
The Last Samuri on Course for National Glory
The countdown is on to the Grand National and early lines released by the bookmakers have seen last year’s runner-up The Last Samuri made antepost favourite. It was heart breaking for trainer for trainer Kim Bailey, who tasted success in the Grand National all the way back in 1990 when Mr Frisk romped to victory.
Since then Bailey has left empty-handed each year, but looked set to finally end a 26-year drought in 2016.
Bailey’s charge, The Last Samuri, went off at 10/1 and started strongly. He moved into contention at the 18th jump and pulled clear at the 26th. With four jumps left to go, The Last Samuri was looking like cruising to victory, by far the strongest horse in the field. At the last he jumped with neck and neck with Vic Canvas and looked to be pulling away, but from deep came the marauding 33/1 shot Rule the World, who made good on his name by storming to victory. The Last Samuri battled bravely and held off the challenge of Vic Canvas, but could only finish second as the nine-year-old simply had nothing left in the tank.
“Jumping the second last, I felt like I'd won the Euro lottery again," said Bailey, "but then it wasn't much fun really. Obviously I was delighted for the horse and for the owners, but who remembers the second?"
Jockey David Bass added: “I can't fault the horse, he was as brave as a lion. I am just gutted to finish second. Hopefully next year…”
Those could have been empty words, but The Last Samuri has plugged away since then and comes into early 2017 in fine form. He put in a heroic performance back at Aintree in the Becher Chase over a shorter distance, finishing third, and is shaping up well for another crack at the big race. He has proved he has the legs and the stamina to go the distance, and that is the main thing people look for when considering the National, which sees so many contestants fall by the wayside over the gruelling course.
A review of sportsbetting lines shows that The Last Samuri is currently the 16/1 outright favourite, ahead of Don Poli, who is 18/1, One for Arthur at 20/1 and Empire of Dirt, who is 25/1. Bailey is bullish. He said: “I'm really happy with him and will go to Doncaster for the Grimthorpe Chase, which he won last year and then, all being well, straight on to Aintree.
“I told the handicapper it would be good to get a weight that starts with a 10, but realistically it'll be around 11 stone five, and we’re really looking forward to it.”
It won’t be as good a handicap as he enjoyed last year, but The Last Samuri has displayed the requisite bravery, staying power and fight to go one better in 2017 and finally win Bailey another Grand National title.
To do so he will have to beat a very strong horse in One for Arthur. The eight year old Bay Gelding finished fifth in the Becher Chase and showed great potential for the National, and has also won two of his last three races. If he can win on the big stage at Aintree he would become the first Scottish horse to win the National since Rubstic in 1979. Trainer Lucinda Russell said: “When we talked about it in the autumn we decided that, if all went to plan, we would aim One For Arthur at the Randox Health Grand National.
“He will go straight to Aintree now and won't run beforehand. He has had a nice, quiet couple of weeks since Warwick and will go back into proper work on Monday.
“His run in the Becher was fantastic and everything has come together nicely with him. We are looking forward to it.”