Jockey Conor O’Farrell believes Saturday’s Randox Grand National is the best chance the admirable veteran Vieux Lion Rouge will ever have in the race, as he bids to extend his fine record at Aintree.
The 12 year old has the unique distinction of having completed Aintree’s Grand National course on nine occasions during his career and he will arrive here in fine form, having produced one of his best efforts to date when winning a second William Hill Becher Chase by 24 lengths in December.
O’Farrell was on board that day and after a solid run in the Welsh Grand National at Chepstow in January, he is confident that David Pipe’s veteran can make his presence felt in this year’s race.
He told Independent Radio: ”We had a great time the last couple of times we were together, so I’m looking forward to getting back on board.
“I’d say this is the best chance he’ll ever have - there’s a lot of very good horses and you wouldn’t say no to owning any of them, but I just think my fella has come of age with the performance he put in to win the Becher.
“That was fantastic and he ran a solid race in the Welsh National last time out. If he turns up at Aintree in the same sort of form, I think he’ll run a big race. He’s a pleasure to ride and I’m just very grateful to all connections for giving me the chance.”
One runner who will be making his debut over Aintree’s unique Grand National fences is the Paul Nolan-trained Discorama, fancied by many to run a big race and currently trading at around 18-1.
The eight year old has placed on three separate occasions at the Cheltenham Festival during his career and while Nolan conceded that he is frustrated not to have won more races with his charge, he is hopeful of a good run here.
He said: “It’s a bit frustrating that the horse has only won twice in his life (considering his talent), he’s won a maiden hurdle and a beginners’ chase, and yet he’s so nearly won some nice races.
“We’ll be dropped out and we’ll hunt him around and hope to God he’ll get into the race at some stage and we’ll take it from there, but you never know with the National. You’re happy if you’re still there with a circuit to go, but hopefully we’ll get a bit of luck.
“We hope he’s in good form and hopefully he gives Tom Friel and Andrew Gemmell (owners) a good run for their money. So many people spend so much money to just have a runner in the National. This horse was an inexpensive purchase and he’s given the boys some great days out, so they wouldn’t swap him for anything.”