One more National assault for Arthur

2017 Grand National

One For Arthur. Photo by Gordon.Milligan is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

When the Lucinda Russell-trained One For Arthur powered up the Aintree run-in to land the 2017 Randox Health Grand National under Derek Fox, he became only the second Scottish-trained winner, following Rubstic in 1979.

On April 4, 2020, the grand staying chaser will also attempt to become the third such winner of the world’s greatest steeplechase.

Father Time marches on and One For Arthur, now an 11-year-old, is not getting any younger, but he is a horse who seems to come alive at Aintree. Judging by his most recent run over the giant spruce fences in the Becher Chase in December, he still has plenty to offer those looking to support him to regain his crown at the main expense of the hat-trick seeking Tiger Roll.

Heroic victory for thorough stayer

Back in 2017, Russell’s old fashioned staying chaser, a 14/1 shot on the day, put in an exemplary round of jumping having been the subject of good ante-post and pre-race market support. He arrived at Aintree having jumped well on his debut over the unique fences when a staying-on fifth in the Becher Chase over a mile short of the Grand National distance. He cemented his credentials when staying on powerfully to win the Grade 3 Classic Chase at Warwick over 3m5f.

On the big day itself Derek Fox gave One For Arthur a terrific ride, settling his mount at the rear of the 40-runner field through the first circuit then picking off his rivals one-by-one.

He really got into gear after jumping 5 out and moved onto the heels of the leaders after they crossed the Melling Road after the third-last fence, approaching the home turn. Jumping upsides the front-running Blacklion at the penultimate fence, the gelded son of St Leger winner Milan opened up a lead going down to the last, then stayed on strongly to beat Cause Of Causes by four-and-a-half lengths, with Saint Are keeping on to be third, and the gallant Blacklion holding on for fourth.

Missed title defence but ran well last year

An injury subsequently ruled the National winner out of action for a hugely frustrating 18 months meaning he couldn’t defend his crown, and things hardly went to plan on his much heralded return when he unseated rider on both his first two starts back. In the light of such a wobbly comeback, his sixth to Tiger Roll in last year’s renewal of the Randox Health Grand National was an excellent effort as he hadn’t completed a race in two years since his own triumph.

The Scottish star again showed his liking for the Aintree challenge and looked set to finish in the first four when moving into fifth at the final fence, only for his run to peter out in the final furlong after lack of full race fitness probably took its toll.

Arthur’s 2020 preparation going to plan

This time around Russell and her partner, legendary ex-jump jockey Peter Scudamore, have had a clear run with their stable star. He made a highly satisfactory return to the fray when fourth to Mysteree in a decent staying handicap chase at Kelso in October, then fired a shot across the respective bows of his Grand National foes when noted staying on strongly into fifth of the 18 runners in last month’s Grade 3 Randox Health Becher Chase won by Walk In The Mill. He was only really getting into gear in the final half-mile and clearly the extra mile of the Grand National itself is tailor-made.

Likely to be better off with Tiger Roll at the weights for this April’s renewal, and granted no blips in the coming months, One For Arthur, generally available at 33/1* but offered at 40/1* in places, is no forlorn hope to prove the old “horses for courses” adage could ring true again back at his happiest hunting ground.

*odds are subject to change.

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