Horse 'Synchronised,' ridden by jockey A. P. McCoy storms to victory in the Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase during the Cheltenham horse racing festival in Gloucestershire, in March. Synchronised has a great chance to land the Grand National on Saturday and become the first horse since Golden Miller in 1934 to win the Aintree marathon and the Cheltenham Gold Cup in the same season
AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE
LIVERPOOL: Synchronised has a great chance to land the Grand National on Saturday and become the first horse since Golden Miller in 1934 to win the Aintree marathon and the Cheltenham Gold Cup in the same season.
In doing so he would give trainer Jonjo O'Neill, who never won the race during his stellar riding career, owner JP McManus and jockey Tony McCoy their second win in the great race in the last three editions.
The nine-year-old gelding gatecrashed the Gold Cup in March as he had favourite and defending champion Long Run behind in third while the people's favourite Kauto Star was pulled up on the first circuit.
Despite being burdened with top weight here Synchronised, who unusually for jump racing is by the late legendary flat stallion Sadler's Wells, will not be opposed by horses of the calibre he saw off at Cheltenham.
Nevertheless the challenge is still a stiff one with a classy field of 39 rivals - including last year's winner Ballabriggs - and the most intimidating 30 fences he will have jumped in his career so far.
Ironically O'Neill, who turns 62 on Friday, suffered one of his worst moments as a jockey in the 1979 Grand National when he partnered Alverton a month after they had landed the Gold Cup only for the Irishman's horse to suffer a fatal fall.
However, McCoy, whose triumph on Don't Push It in 2010 ended years of frustration in the National, is confident that his mount has recovered well enough from the Gold Cup.
"Jonjo is pretty happy with him so we'll have to see. I'm looking forward to it," said McCoy.
"He was obviously very tough and brave to win the Gold Cup. He's got a lot of weight but he's a classy horse and he's won a Welsh National and a Midlands National, so he stays well and if he does take his chance hopefully he'll give a good account."
Aside from Golden Miller only one other horse has achieved the double, though Irish runner L'Escargot did it in different years, winning the Gold Cup on two successive occasions in 1970/71 and beating the incomparable Red Rum in the 1975 National.
Red Rum's outspoken trainer Ginger McCain passed away last September and there will probably not be a dry eye on the course should Ballabriggs retain his title as he is trained by his son Donald.
Should he win, he would be the first horse since Red Rum (in 1973/74) to win the race in successive years.
Others appeal such as 2010 runner-up Black Appalachi, who has come back after a year off the course in fine fettle and finished an impressive second last time out to former National favourite Prince de Beauchene, who is out injured.
Nicky Henderson has trained the winners of all the major races save the National - Zongalero's second in 1979 to Scottish winner Rubstic is the closest he has got - but in eight-year-old Shakalakaboomboom he has a chance to end that hoodoo and with it take the champions' trainer title.
"He's ready to go and this has always been the plan for him hence why he missed Cheltenham. Some people say his name bars him from winning but maybe they were racing commentators!" said the 61-year-old.
While women trainers have visited the winners enclosure -- Jenny Pitman (Corbiere and Royal Athlete in 1983 and '95 respectively) and Venetia Williams (Mon Mome 2009, who runs again) -- no female jockey has.
However, Katie Walsh holds a real chance of ending that with Seabass, trained in Ireland by her father Ted.
"I'm an optimist but a realist," the 27-year-old told The Times.
"I have the right horse (winner of all five starts this term), a great jumper with lots of toe.
"I'll take advice, walk the course with Ruby (her brother who won on their father's runner Papillon on his first ride in the race in 2000).
"But at the end of it all, what I'll need is luck."