He is one of the UK’s most successful horse trainers, having won the Trainer Championship a staggering six times but one thing is still missing from Nicky Henderson’s list of triumphs and that is a Grand National win.
With a career spanning four decades, that has brought him over 3000 winners, surprisingly the Grand National is the one trophy missing from Henderson’s ever-expanding collection.
Despite 72 Cheltenham Festival wins and notching up in excess of £12.2m in earnings over the last five seasons, it would seem that the job will never be fully complete until Henderson bags that elusive Grand National win.
Nicky Henderson National Runners
The Seven Barrows trainer had his first runner in the Aintree showpiece in 1979. He saddled Zongalero who finished in second place, but 42 years later that remains his best-ever finish in the race. Though his 1987 runner, The Tsarevich, also finished second.
By the time the 2017 race rolled around, Cocktails At Dawn, ridden by Nico De Boinville was his only runner. Unfortunately, it was also the first to bow out of the race when falling at the first fence.
2018 was a non-starter as Henderson didn’t have any runners so it was everything to play for again in 2019. Valtor was his only runner, going off at odds of 66/1, again with De Boinville on board. He did make it around but in 18th place.
We all know that 2020 was a dismal year for the sport with most of it being cancelled, including the Grand National. So with the 2021 Grand National came high expectations.
Henderson’s 2021 High Hopes
Not one to lament his lack of success in the race, Henderson approached the 2021 race with his usual optimism.
At the time he said: “I’ve gone for the scattergun approach this year!
“The two that are most likely to go for the race are Beware The Bear and OK Corral, though Pym is another possible.
“I’m not saying I would retire on the spot if I won it, as I wouldn’t, but it would be awfully nice to win the race.”
In fact, he ended up with six entries. They included Santini, second place in the 2020 Gold Cup and OK Corral, who won the Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster just over a year ago.
Beware The Bear, Gold Present, Pym and Valtor rounded off his six entries. However, by race day only OK Corral was left to fly the Henderson flag in the National.
Going off on odds of 80/1 with Derek O’Connor on board, it was not to be for connections as OK Corral pulled up at fence 21.
Looking Towards The 2022 Grand National
It will come as quite a surprise to read that Nicky Henderson only has ONE entry for the 2022 Grand National.
That is Caribean Boy (50/1) for owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede. On paper the eight-year-old doesn’t look like a runner that could genuinely challenge for the win, having never even attempted a race beyond three miles.
However, Henderson knows exactly what his horses are capable of and if he thinks Caribean Boy is in with a shout then maybe he’s worth taking a second look at.
A grey horse, he will have plenty of fans but the reality is that if you run three races back to back, fall in one and pull up in another it’s going to put the punters off.
On top of that, his only run at Aintree was in the Topham Chase in 2021, over the Grand National fences, and he also pulled up in that.
Henderson would have had Santini in the mix again however the owners moved the horse to trainer Polly Gundry in December.
He also entered Chantry House but after he pulled up in the Gold Cup, Henderson scratched him from the Grand National 2022.
So with only one chance to win this year, can Henderson end his Grand National hoodoo and pull a winner out of the bag?
It seems unlikely, but anything is possible in this race. So we’ll just watch what happens on April 9th 2022.
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