EQUINE MANAGEMENT AND TRAINING - Fred and Rowena Cook
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The Last Samuri came within striking distance of winning the Grand National last year, finishing second behind Rule The World.
"Aintree Grand National 2013" (CC BY 2.0) by stacey.cavanagh
The nine-year-old was considered the favourite to triumph in the prestigious meet, but was unable to seal the deal as the horse was edged out down the stretch by the eventual winner.
Trainer Kim Bailey is expected to put the Chestnut Gelding forward for the race again; this time with the intention of claiming the victory.
The news that strong contender for the crown Minella Rocco will not run at Aintree will provide a boost to The Last Samuri and his camp, narrowing the competition, although there still numerous horses that will block his path to glory.
The chestnut gelding is backed in the latest Grand National betting odds at 14/1 to claim victory in the race, and although experience of the course and conditions will stand him in good stead, the horse and expected jockey David Bass will need to rise to the occasion.
Last year, The Last Samuri entered the race in prime form, having won the William Hill Handicap Chase at Kempton Park. He finished strongly after a steady start to win that race, ending 2015 on the highest of notes.
The nine-year-old gave the strongest indicator that he was ready to take the Grand National by storm with an excellent performance at the BetBright Grimthorpe Chase. The Last Samuri defeated The Druids Nephew by a comfortable distance, winning the race at a canter, much to the delight of Bailey and owners Paul and Clare Rooney.
However, he could not match the speed of Rule The World down the final straight at Aintree, culminating in a second-place finish in the National. The lack of pace towards the end of the race could loom large once again for The Last Samuri’s camp ahead of the meet next month.
His form has not been great since being edged out. The chestnut gelding finished fifth in the Champion Chase at Down Royal in November, fading down the stretch once again following a bright start to the race.
On his return to Aintree, he put in a solid outing at the Becher Handicap Chase, placing in third. Worryingly, however, The Last Samuri finished behind two of his potential rivals in the Grand National in Vieux Lion Rogue and Highland Lodge, which does not bear well for the upcoming meet.
The nine-year-old returned to Doncaster for the Grimthorpe Chase in an effort to find form ahead of the Grand National. However, a poor mid-section of the race forced Bass to come through the field and mount a charge down the stretch, but it was not enough to catch Definitely Red, who claimed the win. This Doncaster event, was won by a previous winner Amberleigh House in 2004, with a run reminiscent of one of the greatest national runners in history, Red Rum.’’
Experience will be vital for the jockey and the horse this time around at Aintree. However, The Last Samuri is not carrying the same form into the event as last term.
Bass and Bailey, along with the owners, will have to hope there is a semblance of his early 2016 racing prowess waiting to be unleashed, otherwise the chestnut gelding may miss out on glory once again.