Henderson’s Mister Coffey to go for Aintree again
Nicky Henderson will once more be looking towards Mister Coffey in his quest to finally secure Aintree Grand National glory in 2024.
The Seven Barrows trainer has famously never won the English, Irish, Scottish or Welsh Grand National in his more than 40 years as a handler – despite bagging just about every other major prize in the sport of jumps racing.
Mister Coffey finished eighth at Aintree this season as Corach Rambler justified favouritism to win the Grand National.
Henderson’s charge is now 0-8 over fences, though he has been placed in six of those runs. His trainer is already looking forward to trying again next spring – though he admits the first port of call is to get a win on the board.
“Of course we are going to build around the National next year,” said the trainer. “Mind you, I’m going to try to win a race with him first.
“He has been a bit unlucky, but it is not as if we have gone down to the bottom level to try to win a maiden chase.”
Decent form in the book
Runner-up in the 2022 Kim Muir at Cheltenham, Mister Coffey twice finished as bridesmaid in two decent handicaps last season before finishing placed in the National Hunt Chase on returning to The Festival at Cheltenham in March.
He signed his season off with that decent effort around Aintree and Henderson is encouraged by what he saw. Despite the failure to secure a win, the veteran trainer sees his charge building all the while.
“He’s been to the Cheltenham’s and Aintree’s and I would have thought we’d go to the same route to the end, but maybe the sensible thing to do is to try to win a couple of little races before Christmas then put him by for Cheltenham and then the National. He is improving,” he added.
Don’t mess with National formula
Though the race has managed to allude him so far, Henderson isn’t one for tampering with the Grand National format.
Protestors delayed the start of the 2023 running and the race got some bad press following the fatal fall of Hill Sixteen.
The delay was no help, but Henderson doesn’t believe the race in general needs changing from its current guise.
“It is part of the spectacle. That is what the race is all about. The start is always going to be difficult with 40 horses – everyone wants to be up there, of course they do,” added the trainer as he reflected on Aintree.
“But it’s the essence of the race. We are not fiddling around with some little gymkhana, you know.
“The race wasn’t helped by the protestors and it depends on your horse. But as to suggestions we need to reduce the field size, no. We should have had a reserve [to keep the field at 40].”