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Pipe’s dream of another National

| 08.04.2017

Trainer holds a strong hand on Saturday

Star trainer David Pipe goes into Saturday’s meeting at Aintree with a Grand National win already on his growing list of achievements, and he has left no stone unturned in his quest to do it again. Boasting a strong hand, he has Vieux Lion Rouge, Doctor Harper, Ballynagour and La Vaticane in the line-up.

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Pipe won the race back in 2008 with Comply Or Die, who did the business for punters when going off as a 7/1 joint-favourite. Vieux Lion Rouge rates as his best chance of repeating the feat, according to the odds compilers at least.

The eight-year-old gelding held plenty of weight in the build up to the 2017 renewal of the nation’s favourite race, floating around as ante-post favourite. He has remained near the head of the betting as the field has been narrowed down, but saw Brian Ellison’s Definitly Red jump the queue, now sitting as 10/1 jolly, ahead of Vieux Lion Rouge 11/1 second-fav.

Vieux Lion Rouge is one of Tom Scudamore's weekend rides at Aintree.

Lion Rouge has the measure of main rivals

Travelling to Aintree with a career record reading 11 wins and three places from 21 starts, he has been a profitable pick for followers, and a Grand National win would cap an impressive hat-trick, having scored in each of his last two goes. Winner of the Becher Chase around here late last year, he had the likes of Highland Lodge, The Last Samuri, Ucello Conti and One For Arthur in behind that day, showing his national rivals their place over three-miles one-furlong.

That form was enhanced when winning a Grand National Trial around Haydock last time out, getting the better of Blaklion and Vintage Clouds in convincing fashion. Numbers like that are sure to hold plenty of weight with followers of the stats as we edge closer to the off, and the price gives backers something sweet to work with too.

The challenges of the national will come as no surprise to Vieux Lion Rouge either, as he has done it all before, and not too badly either, finishing seventh in the race last year. He went off at a whopping 66/1 that year, but learned a few lessons along the way, and returns a better horse this time, ready to improve.

Taunton Races

Pipe calls on the doc

Chief support for David Pipe is stablemate Doctor Harper, who offers each-way backers a lively alternative at 40/1. Punters don’t have too much to read into with this nine-year-old, as he is fairly new to competing in chases of three-miles and over, but what we have seen has impressed.

Saturday will be his fourth run of the year, and he’s suffered a bit of a mixed bag so far. New Year’s Day he was second at Cheltenham in a handicap chase over three-miles two-furlongs, beaten a head by Tour Des Champs, but was seen pulling up a couple of weeks later at Warwick over the longer trip. We’ll forgive him that as he stepped back down again to finish seventh in the Kim Muir Challenge Cup at the Cheltenham Festival.

He was never near challenging in a race won by Domesday Book, but those who fancy a bet will take confidence in the fact he lines-up fit and settling in to his new life quickly. Pipe’s other couple – Ballynagour has been pulled up in each of his last three, and would shock us all if he got around here at 66/1. The grey mare La Vaticane was also pulled up last time, and the form of mares in this race goes some way to explaining why she’s a 100/1 poke.

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Frank Monkhouse