NO horse has won back-to-back Grand Nationals since Red Rum, but trainer Dr Richard Newland is adamant that last year’s winner Pineau De Re should not be discounted.
Even though the 12-year-old’s four runs this season – all over hurdles – have been moderate affairs, the one-time GP is hopeful that his stable star can defy history and a 8lb hike in the handicap.
“We’ve had so many well wishes from friends who booked their tickets for the day back in January and I’ve just been praying we’d have a horse there for them to go and see,” said Newland, who also saddles Durham National winner Royale Knight.
“Both of the horses seem in really good form and all we can do is get them there in one piece. The rest is up to the horses and the jockeys.
“Certainly for us, Pineau De Re’s win was the story of 2014, it was just an incredible thing to happen.
“It was astonishing the reaction locally in Worcestershire after we won last year – most people seemed to have backed him.
“For John (Provan, owner) and myself it was a dream to have a Grand National runner and to have the winner was just the best. This time last year I was hopeful. He had run once over the fences and had fallen in the Becher Chase, so you couldn’t be overly optimistic.
“But we had bought the horse with the National specifically in mind and knew we would almost certainly get in the race. He subsequently ran very well at the Cheltenham Festival and I remember speaking to John and saying we have not just got a National runner, we could have a National winner.
“The plan was always for Pineau De Re to come back again. It is obviously an impossibly difficult challenge as no horse has won back to back for over 40 years. Pineau is a superb horse and it is a great privilege to train him. I am sure he will run a very good race.”
Royale Knight, a lively outsider, sneaks into the National field at the bottom of the weights.
Newland, who combines training with running a successful medical business, said: “Long-distance races seem to suit him and he has been prepared for the race.”