Ok Corral set to shoulder Henderson’s hopes of elusive National victory

Nicky Henderson could rely on Ok Corral in his bid to finally end his long wait for a first victory in the Randox Grand National at Aintree on Saturday week.

The Seven Barrows handler has been champion trainer on multiple occasions and has won just about every prize the National Hunt game has to offer – apart from the world’s most famous steeplechase.

Henderson has not yet managed to better the second place of Zongalero, who was his first first runner in 1979, but it has not been for the want of trying.

Speaking on a Zoom call to promote the Randox Grand National Festival on Thursday, he said: “We’ve had a lot of chances.

Nicky Henderson has not had much luck in the Grand National
Nicky Henderson has not had much luck in the Grand National (Bradley Collyer/PA)

“In our first ever year Zongalero was second. I wouldn’t say I thought it was going to be easy. I was numb, to be honest with you, by the end of it.

“As you start to get further and further round and know you’re in the hunt, it gets very exciting. We’ve had lots of times we’ve got to Becher’s second time and we’re thinking ‘this is going well’, and then crash, bang, wallop!

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“We’ve had lots of horses placed, but then I think we had six consecutive fallers at the first! It’s just been one of those races.”

While insisting there are no thoughts of retirement in his mind, the 70-year-old admits he will not have many more chances to break his National hoodoo.

He added: “The clock is ticking!

“The National is very special to everybody. It would be nice to get it on the CV, but if it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen.

“If you haven’t got a National horse, it’s hard to make one.

“We have found some very good two-mile chasers, but we can’t find a four-mile chaser.”

Having scratched top-weight Santini and ruled out running Beware The Bear, Golden Present and Pym, Henderson’s only remaining contenders are Ok Corral and Valtor, although the latter is far from certain to make the cut.

The coronavirus pandemic put paid to an initial National 12 months ago for Ok Corral, who won the 2020 Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster in January before pulling up on his return from over a year on the sidelines at Cheltenham last month.

Leading Irish amateur Derek O’Connor is in line for the ride.

Henderson said: “The only one really is Ok Corral. Valtor needs a lot of horses to come out, but if he got in, he would come into it.

Derek O’Connor will ride Ok Corral at Aintree
Derek O’Connor will ride Ok Corral at Aintree (Niall Carson/PA)

“Ok Corral schooled over fences this morning and that was very good.

“The plan is for Derek O’Connor, who knows him well, to ride him. As long as all the work goes well in the morning, I’m going to give Derek the green light, because I think the poor guy hasn’t had a meal for three weeks!

“The horse jumped really well this morning. AP (McCoy) was down here with us and we were were all very happy.

“I’m not rushing down to the bookies to back him, but if you’re not in you can’t win and once you’re one of the 40 runners going down to the first fence, you’ve as good a chance as any.”

Sky Bet Chase Trends

Staged at Doncaster racecourse the Skybet Chase (formerly known as the Great Yorkshire Chase) is a Listed Handicap run over 3m. The race can often throw up some Grand National clues, although no winner in the last 15 runnings has gone onto win the Aintree marathon.

In recent years, the Alan King, Paul Nicholls and Pipe stables have dominated the race with two wins a-piece since 2003, while in the last 15 runnings we’ve seen just two winning favourites – the 2020 Skybet Chase was won by the Nicky Henderson-trained Ok Corral at 9/1.

Here at GEEGEEZ we look back at recent winners (note, the 2010 and 2011 runnings were abandoned) and gives you the key stats to take into the 2021 renewal – this year being run on Saturday 30th January.



Recent Skybet Chase Winners

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2020 – OK CORRAL (9/1)
2018 - WAKANDA (8/1)
2017 – ZIGA BOY (10/1)
2016 – ZIGA BOY (8/1)
2015 – IF IN DOUBT (4/1 fav)
2014 – RAINBOW HUNTER (25/1)
2013 – Meeting Abandoned
2012 – CALGARY BAY (12/1)
2009 – BIG FELLA THANKS (9/2)
2008 – AN ACCORDION (11/2 fav)
2007 – SIMON (7/1)
2006 – A GLASS IN THYNE (16/1)
2005 – COLOURFUL LIFE (9/1)
2003 – BARRYSCOURT LAD (9/2)

Skybet Chase Betting Trends

14/15 – Had won between 0-3 times over fences before
12/15 – Carried 11-2 or less
12/15 – Aged 9 or younger
12/15 – Officially rated 130 or higher
12/15 – Had won over at least 3m (fences) before
11/15 – Returned 9/1 or shorter in the betting
10/15 – Unplaced favourites
9/15 – Carried 10-12 or less
9/15 – Had raced within the last 4 weeks
9/15 – Irish bred
8/15 – Finished unplaced last time out
8/15 – Came from the top 3 in the betting
5/15 – Raced at Cheltenham last time out
3/15 – Won last time out
2/15 – Trained by Paul Nicholls
2/15 – Trained by the Pipe stable
2/15 – Winning favourites
2/15 – Trained by Alan King
The average winning SP in the last 15 runnings is 9/1


Other Stats:
4 of the last 15 winners of this race went onto contest the William Hill Trophy (now JLT Chase) at the Cheltenham Festival that season (1 winner)
5 of the last 15 winners went onto run in that season’s Grand National (no winners, all unplaced)