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
Despite 70 Cheltenham Festival wins and notching up in excess of £13.26m in earnings over the last five seasons, it would seem that the job will never be fully complete until Henderson bags that all 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
Though we are nowhere near a list of entries for the 2022 Grand National – that comes out at the end of January – Henderson does still have some options.
Santini is in the mix again with the bookies who are offering ante-post odds on the race. Though highly unlikely that he will race as he will undoubtedly be given top weight again, if the Handicapper treated him a bit better we could see him at Aintree.
Likewise for Pym who will be nine-years-old when the race rolls around. However, Pym’s form hasn’t been great recently so if Henderson can get him back on track he could run a solid race.
But until we get the entries early next year, there is no way of definitely stating who Henderson will enter. One thing is for sure though, a win for the great trainer is well over due so here’s hoping that 2022 can bring him that he needs.