THE father and son team of Nigel and Sam Twiston-Davies hope that Baby Run can complete a fairytale comeback today and continue the family’s remarkable record over Aintree’s Grand National fences.
Exactly 12 months after the remarkable 14-year-old Hello Bud was promptly retired following his emotional win in the Betfred Becher Chase, the Twiston-Davies stable run the 13-year-old Baby Run, who has spent the past 18 months on the injury sidelines.
Victory would be a sixth in the race for Twiston-Davies senior who first lifted this dress rehearsal for the Grand National with Indian Tonic 20 years ago, while it would be a third success in this demanding race for his 21-year-old jockey son Sam, who prevailed on the aforementioned Hello Bud in both 2010 and 2012.
Though age is against Baby Run, the horse, too, has winning form at Aintree – he won the Fox Hunters’ Chase in April 2011, when ridden by the trainer’s other jockey-son, Willy, who has since made a successful switch to the Flat.
The worry is that Baby Run has not raced since finishing third in the bet365 Gold Cup later that month, but no stable has a better record over this unique course which incorporates unique fences like Becher’s Brook and The Chair.
“He had a small leg problem after we ran him on ground that was a bit too fast for him in what was the Whitbread at Sandown,” said Twiston-Davies senior whose Grand National successes came courtesy of Earth Summit and Bindaree.
“He’s been in good form and he won the Fox Hunters’ round there so it should suit him. Hello Bud won it when he was 14 last year so we’re not worried about that (age).”
Swing Bill heads David Pipe’s three-pronged attack on the three-and-a-quarter-mile test.
The 12-year-old, fourth behind Hello Bud 12 months ago, ran a tremendous race to finish sixth in the Grand National in April behind Auroras Encore.
“Swing Bill has got a great track record and will like the ground. We are giving it a go with Junior, and Bostons Angel is having his first run for us. If he (Bostons Angel) takes to the fences he might enjoy it,” said Pipe.
“We are trying to freshen Bostons Angel up. He has his own ideas about the game nowadays.”
Join Together’s best performance last season came in this race when he was only beaten a neck by Hello Bud.
The eight-year-old has failed to shine in both his starts so far this term and trainer Paul Nicholls is hoping a return to Aintree will spark a revival in fortunes.
“He ran well in the race last year, obviously, but he was disappointing in France last time,” said Nicholls.
“For whatever reason he didn’t seem to like the water jump at Auteuil, so we’re just hoping he can bounce back on a course we know he likes.”
Donald McCain is banking on a pipe-opener behind Tidal Bay in the bet365 Hurdle at Wetherby five weeks ago putting Across The Bay spot-on for another crack at the big fences.
The nine-year-old was 14th of the 17 finishers in the Grand National last season and has shown good form over hurdles and over the marginally lesser Mildmay fences at the Liverpool venue.
“We’re happy with him. We had a run round Wetherby with him and we’re looking forward to it,” he said. “Obviously there are not many places you can go. We mixed and matched it a bit last year so we got a run into him. He had a good blow and he’s going there fresh.”
While On His Own is an intriguing runner for top Irish trainer Willie Mullins, Mr Moonshine has every chance for the connections of this year’s Grand National winner Auroras Encore.
Though he did not stay the four-and-a-half mile National trip when pulled up in April, Bingley trainer Sue Smith hopes the slightly shorter trip, and good ground, will suit this consistent horse.
“He’s in good form and the weight is right,” she said. “Everything is in good order. He just didn’t get the trip in the National, but he jumped well enough.”
She offered a similar assessment of Gansey, who lines up in the Betfred Grand Sefton Chase over one circuit of the Aintree course.
He was beaten on the line 12 months ago by Little Josh from the aforementioned Twiston-Davies stable in a race that taught Ryan Mania a lot about the intricacies of the course before his unforgettable win on Auroras Encore four months later.
He takes the ride on both Mr Moonshine and Gansey.