Rough Quest favourite for Grand National
Rough Quest claimed clear favouritism for the Martell Grand National as his bid to recapture his Aintree crown began in earnest yesterday. The hero of the 1996 contest was promoted to 14 to 1 with Ladbrokes and the Tote as he earned a weight of 11st 4lb on the publication of the handicap.
Last year's runner-up Suny Bay has been allotted top spot of 12st. The Grey Monk has 11st 8lbs with Couldnt Be Better and Cyborgo together on 11st 7lbs. A third grey Senor El Betrutti is set to carry 11st 5lb, as well as Addington Boy.
Rough Quest, not entered last year because of injury, has yet to win this season and disappointed on his most recent run when third in the Pillar Chase at Cheltenham.
But he was later found to be dehydrated and trainer Terry Casey is optimistic the 12-yearold can emulate Red Rum who had to wait three years to clinch his last National.
"He will go straight to the Gold Cup first and though that might be a bit beyond him at his age now, he will run a lot better than he's been running. He's at his best in the spring," he said.
"I like to see him drink plenty and I overdid the salt the night before he ran at Cheltenham. He's not a straightforward horse and you have to be careful with his constitution.
"But I rode him on Sunday morning and he felt super. Before I left him today he looked fantastic, in fact he's never looked better."
Rough Quest is a 20 to 1 chance with William Hill who favour Suny Bay and Edward O'Grady's Time For A Run (9-10) as its 16 to 1 joint favourites. Suny Bay also tops the Coral list on 14 to 1.
But the Hennessy Gold Cup winner has had a problem since he disappointed in the King George VI Chase at Kempton and his immediate programme is uncertain.
Trainer Charlie Brooks said: "I would not rule Suny Bay out of the Greenalls at Haydock but he pulled a muscle in his hind-quarters and we have to get him right.
"I'd like to think he'll start cantering next week. It's difficult to say whether he will be fine for the Greenalls, Gold Cup or Grand National, but we would be very unlucky if things weren't okay for two out of three of those races.
"The National is not a good race to be second in, it's nice to win. The ground was far too quick for him last year, hopefully it will be better this year."
Martin Pipe, who has engaged nine of him team, described Cyborgo and Challenger du Luc as "the two serious ones" but both head to the Gold Cup first.
"It could be just Challenger's sort of race. He will probably enjoy himself and like Miinnehoma could come at the end and take the lead. Some compare him to Last Suspect as well," he said.
Time For A Run, one of three O'Grady entrants, will tackle Cheltenham first, while Earth Summit (10-5), winner of a Scottish and Welsh National, heads for the Greenalls.