It is nearly 32 years since Rubstic won the John Smith’s Grand National at Aintree for Scotland, the John Leadbetter-trained ten-year-old scoring at odds of 25/1 under jockey Maurice Barnes, so some might say another Scottish winner would not be before time, writes Elliot Slater.
Andrew Parker’s Merigo is a slightly more obvious choice than was Rubstic all those years ago, having already proved himself to be a talented staying handicap chaser who looks the type to give a very good account of himself in ‘the world’s greatest steeplechase’. Parker trains in the charmingly named village of Ecclefechan in Dumfries & Galloway, and has already managed to big a couple of big prizes with the talented 10-year-old.
In February of 2009 Merigo put up a dour staying performance when seeing off his rivals in desperately testing ground to beat Morgan Be by just half-a-length in the four-mile-one furlong Tote Eider Chase at Newcastle. That slog through the mud gave the impression that the gelded son of Pistolet Bleu is nothing more than a one-paced mud-lark, n impression that was well and truly blown away when on officially ‘good’ ground, given a terrific positive ride from Timmy Murphy, Merigo ran away with last year’s Coral Scottish Grand National at Ayr, beating Irish challenger Gone To Lunch by an easy nine lengths.
A horse who is a guaranteed stayer, handles any ground, is normally a solid jumper and has never shirked a battle, Merigo could well prove to be a shrewd each-way bet at around 25/1 in the Grand National betting odds.
Sent to Aintree in November to get a feel for the fearsome spruce fences in the Becher Chase, Merigo had been held up at the rear and was just starting to creep closer under Murphy when he fell at the eleventh fence. Up to that point he seemed to have taken well to the course, so connections are inclined to put that fall down to simple bad luck.