The £1-million handicap chase, by far the richest Jump race run anywhere outside of Japan, takes place at Aintree on Saturday, April 14.
Twiston-Davies is the only current trainer to have won the Grand National more than once. Next year will be the 20th anniversary of his first Grand National success with Earth Summit in 1998. His second victory came courtesy of Bindaree in 2002.
The stable’s main hopes for 2018 are last season’s fourth Blaklion – the 16/1 favourite with Betway, official betting partner of the Randox Health Grand National Festival – and Splash Of Ginge (50/1).
Blaklion went down by half a length to stablemate Bristol De Mai on his return in the G2 Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby on November 4, and is the 11/4 clear favourite with Betway for the £145,000 Randox Health Becher Chase over the Grand National fences this Saturday, Becher Chase Day, December 9.
Twiston-Davies said: “Blaklion has huge Grand National potential. He possibly went too soon last year and didn’t quite get home.
“It was still a really good run and he did look the winner three out. We would probably ride him with more restraint next time.
“The run in Charlie Hall Chase looks very good form. There wasn’t much between him and Bristol De Mai and the handicapper has not been too hard on him.
“Everything looks perfect for him in the Randox Health Becher Chase and, with a clear run, I would be very excited. I don’t want to get too excited though as when that happens, something usually goes wrong! He looks a worthy favourite anyway.
“We will see how he goes on Saturday before making a plan. If he romps home, do we maybe start looking at him as a Gold Cup horse? I don’t know.
“Gavin Sheehan rides him on Saturday. He is a very freelance and rode at Wetherby because we had run out of jockeys.”
Splash Of Ginge already has two prestigious handicap prizes to his name. He captured the 2014 Betfair Hurdle at Newbury and returned to form over fences last time out with a tenacious victory in the BetVictor Gold Cup at Cheltenham on November 17.
Twiston-Davies continued: “We will see how his next couple of races go, but Splash Of Ginge could be given a Grand National entry. John [Neild, owner] is a Liverpudlian and wants to have a go. Why not? He has had a bet and will win a million quid if he wins.
“Splash Of Ginge will go for the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup next week, provided there is some rain. If it doesn’t rain, he will go for the Welsh National where it should be soft ground, which will suit him. Certainly over two and a half miles, he would need very testing ground. Over longer, he doesn’t.
“Now that Splash Of Ginge has rediscovered his jumping, he could be a national horse. We put him back over hurdles to try and restore his confidence. He frightened himself over fences but has learned again that is isn’t frightening. He won up at Haydock over hurdles and has been good ever since.”
Before Splash Of Ginge ever raced, his charismatic owner John Neild had a £1,000 bet at 1,000/1 with Star Sports that his horse would win the Grand National during his career. Splash Of Ginge is now a 50/1 chance with Betway.
Neild said today: “The bet does not change our thinking about the Randox Health Grand National. I always say to Nige that you can’t make the horse fit the race. He was out of form but seems to have his confidence back now over fences.
“Splash Of Ginge stays longer than the mother in law. He just needs his ground. We were lucky the other day to get it in the BetVictor Gold Cup when the rain came. If it happens to rain around the second Saturday in April, we will be there to have a go.
“Nige is one of those enigmas. I hope people realise and not when he stops training. Everyone thinks he is a maverick character but he isn’t. He thinks everything through methodically and comes back to me with a plan.
“We have been more than lucky to have won what we have but if anyone can pull out a Grand National win with this horse, it is Nige.”
Twiston-Davies will be well-represented at Aintree on Saturday, with Ballybolley and Arctic Gold in the other race over the Grand National fences, the 188Bet Grand Sefton Handicap Chase, and G1 scorer Flying Angel set to tackle three miles and a furlong for the first time in £50,000 G2 188bet.co.uk Many Clouds Chase.
Twiston-Davies added: “Ballybolley and Arctic Gold will go for the Grand Sefton. Ballybolley is quite free-going but a very good jumper. I like him and it will be exciting to watch him around Aintree – he should hopefully eat those fences hopefully. Arctic Gold has not done as much as Ballybolley but is a nice horse and also a good jumper.”
Flying Angel captured the G2 Kingmaker Novices’ Chase over two miles at Warwick in February and enjoyed his biggest success to date in the G1 Manifesto Novices’ Chase over half a mile further at Aintree in April.
The trainer added: “Flying Angel disappointed on his first run of the season [fifth at Newton Abbot] but was much better the other day at Ascot [fourth in G2 Christy 1965 Chase]. Now we are upping him in trip for the Many Clouds Chase and we hope that will bring out the best in him.
“Although he has won over shorter, we have always thought he could be a three-miler. You have to dream and he could be the next Bristol De Mai. He is exuberant and jumps well, and is pretty smart on his day.”
Blaklion 40/1 for National fences double
Last year’s Randox Health Grand National fourth, Blaklion, is 40/1 with Betway to become the first horse to land the Randox Health Becher Chase and Grand National in the same season.
The eight-year-old is the 11/4 favourite for Saturday’s feature race over the National fences at Aintree, while Nigel Twiston-Davies’ runner is also the current market leader for the National at 16/1.
Gas Line Boy is Blaklion’s nearest rival in the Becher Chase betting at 15/2, ahead of last year’s winner Vieux Lion Rouge at 10/1. Top-weight The Last Samuri is also a 10/1 chance.
The Grand National Festival’s official betting partner, Betway, has both Native River and recent Newbury winner Total Recall at 20/1 for April’s big race, with a host of 25/1 shots including Irish National winner Our Duke.
Betway’s Alan Alger, said: “Silver Birch, Amberleigh House and Earth Summit all won over the National fences before doubling up in the Grand National, but surprisingly no horse has landed both the Becher and the Grand National in the same season.
“Blaklion is a warm order for Saturday’s race at just 11/4 and also heads the National betting. With his sights firmly set on April’s showpiece, a tasty 40/1 for him to win both races may keep punters interested for a little longer if he obliges this weekend.”
Betway – Horse Racing – Ante Post – Aintree
Randox Health Becher Chase 2017:
Gas Line Boy 8/1
The Last Samuri 10/1
Vieux Lion Rouge 10/1
As De Mee 12/1
Highland Lodge 12/1
Viva Steve 14/1
The Young Master 16/1
Sizing Codelco 25/1
Lord Windermere 28/1
Silver Man 33/1
Randox Health Grand National 2018:
Native River 20/1
Total Recall 20/1
Cause of Causes 25/1
Minella Rocco 25/1
Our Duke 25/1
The Last Samuri 33/1
Pleasant Company 33/1
Regal Encore 40/1
More of That 50/1
To win the 2017 Becher Chase and 2018 Grand National:
Any horse 28/1
Profile – Nigel Twiston-Davies
Nigel Twiston-Davies initially combined training as a permit-holder with his farming interests throughout the 1980s, having his first winner with Last Of The Foxes at Hereford on February 3, 1982, as a permit holder before the agricultural recession prompted him to make training his full-time profession.
He took out a full training licence in 1989, recording his first win as a public trainer on December 30 of that year with Babil at Newbury.
He has since gone on to register more than 1,875 successes, with his 1,000th winner coming at Stratford in October, 2006.
Born on May 16, 1957, Twiston-Davies rode 17 winners as an amateur under Rules and gained a further 17 point-to-point victories, and served as assistant trainer to Richard Head, Fred Rimell as well as spells with Kim Bailey and David Nicholson.
A childhood neighbour and friend of Peter Scudamore, he went into partnership with the champion Jump jockey to set up stables at Grange Hill Farm between Guiting Power and Naunton in Gloucestershire, although Scudamore has not been involved in the venture for many years (since 2003) and currently assists his partner Lucinda Russell.
Since 2009, Twiston-Davies’ business partner and assistant trainer is former stable jockey Carl Llewellyn, who enjoyed two Grand National winners thanks to Party Politics in 1992 and Earth Summit in 1998.
Twiston-Davies adopted and developed the pioneering techniques of Martin Pipe, such as interval training and regular blood tests for his string, enabling him to rapidly raise his profile among the training ranks.
He is the only current trainer to have won the Grand National at Aintree more than once, saddling Earth Summit to victory in 1998 and Bindaree four years later.
He momentarily shocked Des Lynam after Earth Summit’s success by telling the BBC TV presenter in front of millions of viewers “I don’t do interviews”. He trained Earth Summit for the six-man Summit Partnership, led by Nigel Payne, press officer for the Grand National.
The 2001/2002 campaign had been relatively quiet by Twiston-Davies’ high standards before the Raymond Mould-owned Bindaree provided him with his second Grand National success.
Afterwards he revealed that he had been intending to give up training, but despite “having a bigger debt than Argentina” after buying out Scudamore, the Aintree victory made him have a change of heart.
The £145,000 Randox Health Becher Handicap Chase, staged at Aintree on Saturday (December 9) over the Grand National fences, has been a very successful race for the trainer who has achieved five victories with Hello Bud in 2012 and 2010 and on both occasions ridden by Sam Twiston-Davies, plus Earth Summit (1998), Young Hustler (1995) and Indian Tonic (1993).
He has also won this weekend’s £70,000 188bet.co.uk Grand Sefton Handicap Chase, also over the Grand National fences, with Little Josh (2012, ridden by Sam Twiston-Davies).
Twiston-Davies has had 17 successes at the Cheltenham Festival, headed by Imperial Commander in the 2010 Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Other big-race wins include three Scottish Grand National successes, two Welsh Grand National triumphs, the Betfair Chase with Imperial Commander (2010) and the Betway Aintree Hurdle with The New One (2014), Khyber Kim (2010) and Mister Morose (2000).
His best season numerically was in 2010/11, when he enjoyed 97 winners, while he saddled 95 winners over jumps in 2016/17.
He has made a fine start to the 2017/18 campaign, with 40 winners (up to and including Monday, December 4) on the board already, headed by the success of Bristol De Mai in the G1 Betfair Chase at Haydock Park on November 25 and Splash Of Ginge in the G3 BetVictor Gold Cup at Cheltenham on November 18.
He had two sons with his former wife Cathy. The eldest, Sam, 25, is stable jockey to leading Jump trainer Paul Nicholls and still rides regularly for his father, but is out of action with an elbow injury at the moment.
William (Willy), 23, a successful rider on the Flat and over jumps, announced earlier this week that he will not be returning to race riding. He wants to work in bloodstock before becoming a trainer.
The trainer is married to Vicky and they have three young children, Poppy, Rosie and Ted.
Nigel Twiston-Davies’ complete record in the Randox Health Grand National
YEAR HORSE JOCKEY AGE/WGT SP RESULT
Young Hustler David Bridgwater 7-10-12 16/1 BD 11th
Young Hustler Carl Llewellyn 8-11-02 10/1 UR 3rd
Dakyns Boy Tom Jenks 10-10-00 50/1 UR 10th
Camelot Knight Mr Mark Rimell 9-10-02 66/1 FELL 21st
Young Hustler Chris Maude 9-11-07 8/1 5th
Captain Dibble Tom Jenks 11-10-00 40/1 11th
Camelot Knight Carl Llewellyn 11-10-00 100/1 3rd
Dakyns Boy Timmy Murphy 12-10-00 100/1 8th
Grange Brake David Walsh 10-10-04 100/1 REF 27th
EARTH SUMMIT CARL LLEWELLYN 10-10-05 7/1F WON
Earth Summit Carl Llewellyn 11-11-00 16/1 8th
Camelot Knight Chris Maude 13-10-00 200/1 BD 22nd
Camelot Knight Ollie McPhail 14-10-00 150/1 15th
Spanish Main Jamie Goldstein 7-10-00 25/1 FELL 1st
Beau Carl Llewellyn 8-11-10 12/1 UR 20th
BINDAREE JIM CULLOTY 8-10-04 20/1 WON
Frantic Tan Tom Jenks 10-10-05 50/1 UR 5th
Beau Carl Llewellyn 9-11-01 11/1 UR 14th
Bindaree Carl Llewellyn 9-10-11 25/1 6th
Shardam Tom Scudamore 7-10-11 18/1 UR 3rd
Bindaree Carl Llewellyn 10-11-04 10/1CF UR 6th
Bindaree Carl Llewellyn 11-11-03 33/1 11th
Baron Windrush Carl Llewellyn 8-10-07 66/1 UR 3rd
Knowhere Tom Doyle 9-10-13 100/1 UR 8th
Naunton Brook Noel Fehily 8-10-04 125/1 PU 23rd
Fundamentalist Paddy Brennan 10-11-04 66/1 FELL 3rd
Ardaghey David England 9-10-07 100/1 FELL 4th
Naunton Brook Andrew Tinkler 9-10-10 66/1 PU 19th
Knowhere Joe Tizzard 10-11-11 66/1 UR 25th
Battlecry Tom Scudamore 8-10-10 33/1 16th
Ollie Magern Mr Sam Waley-Cohen 11-11-06 66/1 FELL 2nd
Fundamentalist David England 11-10-11 100/1 PU 21st
Knowhere Paddy Brennan 11-11-07 50/1 PU 25th
Hello Bud Sam Twiston-Davies 12-10-06 20/1 5th
Irish Raptor Paddy Brennan 11-10-07 33/1 FELL 14th
Beat The Boys Brian Hughes 9-11-00 25/1 PU 19th
Ballyitz David England 10-10-09 50/1 FELL 22nd
Ollie Magern Tom Molloy 12-10-09 100/1 PU 29th
Grand Slam Hero Aidan Coleman 10-10-07 66/1 FELL 13th
Hello Bud Sam Twiston-Davies 13-10-05 20/1 PU 29th
Hello Bud Sam Twiston-Davies 14-10-00 33/1 7th
Viking Blond Brian Hughes 7-10-00 80/1 FELL 1st
Major Malarkey Tom Scudamore 10-10-00 50/1 11th
Viking Blond Adam Wedge 8-10-00 66/1 PU 15th
Imperial Commander Sam Twiston-Davies 12-11-10 11/1 PU 22nd
Double Ross Ryan Hatch 10-10-09 80/1 PU 26th
Blaklion Noel Fehily 8-11-01 8/1F 4th
Potential challengers for the £1-million 2018 Randox Health Grand National at Aintree on Saturday, April 14
Breeding: 8 b g Kayf Tara – Franciscaine (Legend Of France)
Breeder: Mary Morrison
Born: April 3, 2009
Owner: Simon Such & Gino Paletta
*On course for a second crack at the Randox Health Grand National, having finished fourth in the Aintree highlight in April, 2017, his first appearance over the Grand National fences. Set to start back at Aintree this Saturday, December 9, in the Randox Health Becher Handicap Chase.
*Finest hour to date came at The Festival at Cheltenham in March, 2016, when he gamely took the G1 RSA Chase.
*Without a win since that victory but ran well several times in defeat last season, including when fifth in the G3 Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury and second in the G3 Betfred Grand National Trial at Haydock Park.
*Made an excellent return in the G2 Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby on November 4, going down by half a length to stable companion and subsequent runaway G1 Betfair Chase winner Bristol De Mai.
Jump race record: Starts: 23; Wins: 8; 2nd: 5; 3rd: 3; Win & Place Prize Money: £305,237
Simon Such & Gino Paletta
Businessman Simon Such and his wife Sarah, in whose name their horses used to run, live in Worcester, while Gino Paletta (born July, 1959) is a businessman and British property investor based in Gresford near Wrexham, Wales. Paletta, married to Jeanette, was a director of Wrexham Football Club from 1990 to 1999. Racing interests: the pair have enjoyed considerable success with a small string of horses, headed by Cheltenham Festival winners The New One and Blaklion. The New One, now nine, has won 19 of his 33 starts, including the G1 Betway Aintree Hurdle, and run in the last four Unibet Champion Hurdles at the Cheltenham Festival, earning just over £950,000 in prize money. They also own novice chaser Ballyhill, handicap chaser Little Pop and chaser Benbens who has won at Aintree, with Nigel Twiston-Davies. Gino Paletta previously owned two horses in partnership, Wise Owl and Frosted Grape, who were trained by David Pipe. Simon and Gino took the part in last summer’s Injured Jockeys Fund charity golf day at the Teign Valley Golf Club. Randox Health Grand National Record: 2017 Blaklion (4th)
Splash Of Ginge
Breeding: 9 b g Oscar – Land Of Honour (Supreme Leader)
Breeder: Stewart Pike
Born: March 12, 2008
Owner: John Neild
*Successful in two of the most competitive contests in the Jump calendar, having scored in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury as a novice in 2014, and bravely won the BetVictor Gold Cup at Cheltenham on November 17.
*Runner-up in the G1 Mersey Novices’ Festival at Aintree in April, 2014, but was pulled up on his only previous experience of the Grand National fences in the 2015 Topham Handicap Chase.
*Narrowly missed the cut for the 2016 Grand National (rated 141 at the time).
*Named after owner John Neild’s father – “his nickname was Ginge and I had a dream that I would own a horse called Splasher, so I put the two together.”
Jump race record: Starts: 37; Wins: 6; 2nd: 3; 3rd: 4; Win & Place Prize Money: £272,444
Breeding: 11 ch g Double Eclipse – Kinross (Nearly A Hand)
Breeder: T McIlhagga
Born: April 1, 2006
Owner: Options O Syndicate
*Pulled up in 2016 Grand National after his saddle slipped on the second circuit; finished fifth on both other starts over the Grand National fences, in the 2015 Grand Sefton Handicap Chase and the 2014 Topham Chase.
*Gained a pair of G3 handicap chase victories as a novice during the 2013/2014 campaign, and finished third in the 2016 Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury and was pulled up after being badly hampered in same race on December 2.
Jump race record: Starts: 45; Wins: 6; 2nd: 6; 3rd: 9; Win & Place Prize Money: £258,308
Breeding: 8 b g King’s Theatre – Wyldello (Supreme Leader)
Breeder: R D & Mrs J S Chugg
Born: May 3, 2009
Owner: Graham & Alison Jelley
*Unseated Ryan Hatch at the second fence on his only previous appearance over the Grand National fences in last season’s Becher Handicap Chase.
*Went down by a neck to Vicente in Scottish Grand National at Ayr in April.
*Made impressive return to action with victory in randoxhealth.com Handicap Chase at Cheltenham on October 28, before being pulled up in Ladbrokes Trophy (formerly the Hennessy Gold Cup) at Newbury on December 2.
Jump race record: Starts: 29; Wins: 7; 2nd: 3; 3rd: 4; Win & Place Prize Money: £150,594
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