Beware the Henderson hoodoo
As has been much discussed in recent season Nicky Henderson, one of the greatest trainers in history is yet to win a Grand National. Indeed his win in the American Grand National last season was his first win in a National of any type.
Henderson, who received his OBE from the Queen last week, has won seven Champion Hurdles, two Gold Cups and six Queen Mother Champion Chases in a storied career. He has yet to win ‘The People’s Race’ however, and, after 39 unsuccessful runners, his first runner Zongalero – who finished second way back in 1979 – remains the best finisher the 69-year-old trainer has had.
He does however have an ideal National candidate in 2020 courtesy of Beware The Bear who has slid under the radar in a quiet 2019-20 season. Currently number seven on the list of entries he will receive 10lbs from favourite and top-weight Tiger Roll.
Last season the-now 10-year-old won back-to-back Cheltenham handicaps including landing the Ultima at the Festival. Magic Of Light who was seventh behind him went on to finish second in the Aintree spectacular so the form is rock solid.
Beware The Bear has only run twice this term but his fourth in the ultra-competitive Ladbrokes Trophy (formerly Hennessy Gold Cup) at Newbury back in November was a fine effort beaten just over 2L. He is only 1lb higher heading going into Aintree after an ordinary effort over hurdles. Indeed, hurdles preps are very much in-vogue now for Grand National entrants and everything points to a long-term Seven Barrows plan towards the National.
He has been kept fresh since that hurdles run in January and clearly can go well after such absences. The fact that Henderson has resisted the temptation to go to Cheltenham despite the horse winning there last season and running well twice previously is further evidence suggesting he believes he has the horse ideally suited to the National and on a very workable mark.
The son of Shantou has always looked an out-and out stayer and his two previous races over marathon trips can to some extent be dismissed with both coming on good ground which he does not enjoy. If we get soft conditions at Aintree however he looks an ideal type. His lack of early speed is often a big negative but the National is always run at a sedate pace on the first circuit which ought to help him attain a good position before hopefully working his way through the field when things hot up second time around.
A somewhat quirky sort who can race behind the bridle, Beware The Bear improved no end last season after being fitted with blinkers as he won his first two races in the headgear and although they weren’t present last time over hurdles they will almost certainly be back on come April. The more one looks through the form of Beware The Bear the more he begins to appeal and 40/1* odds generally available represent value.
*Odds subject to change.