Last season, the Paul Nicholls-trained Join Together was quietly fancied to go well in the Grand National at Aintree. He eventually finished 12th of the 40 runners behind Aurora’s Encore but will be wiser this time and could be a major contender for honours.
The eight-year-old made his seasonal reappearance at Chepstow recently in a competitive three-mile handicap chase and ran as anticipated, fading in the final mile as lack of prime conditioning took its toll on the easy ground. That outing should have well and truly blown away the cobwebs and begun the process of building up to a return visit to Liverpool for the Crabbies Grand National on April 5.
With this year’s renewal of the ‘world’s greatest steeplechase’ carrying a £1 million purse for the very first time, there are a million good reasons why Nicholls will be seeking to bring the gelded son of Old Vic to the boil only in the spring and not before.
Currently available at odds of 50 in Betfair’s ante-post market for the big race, Join Together has run a number of good races in defeat since November 2011 when slamming the useful Moseley by 12 lengths in a Cheltenham Novice Chase.
Third behind the high-class Silviniaco Conti in the Grade 2 John Smiths Mildmay Novices Chase at Aintree 2012, Join Together had his first taste of the Aintree fences last November and ran a blinder, failing by just half-a-length to beat the admirable veteran Hello Bud in a pulsating renewal of the listed Becher Chase.
That effort clearly demonstrated that Nicholls’ charge has serious ‘National’ potential and is just the right type of horse for the big race.
Allowed to take his chance in the big race in April, Join Together was up with the leaders until the Canal Turn on the second circuit, possibly finding the race coming a year too soon. This time around he could be a very different proposition.