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Page last updated at 14:39 GMT, Monday, 4 April 2011 15:39 UK

Can Silver By Nature end Scots' Grand National drought?

JOHN SMITH'S GRAND NATIONAL Aintree, Saturday 9 April, 1615 BST
Coverage: Live on BBC TV, HD, Radio 5 live, online
Other races also across the BBC 7-9 April

Peter Buchanan riding Silver By Nature at Chepstow in 2009
Peter Buchanan has ridden Silver By Nature to victory four times

BBC Scotland's racing reporter Geoff Webster
By Geoff Webster
BBC Scotland racing reporter

There's something very special about this time of year as we emerge from the long, dark, cold days of winter.

As the first buds of spring begin to open, the sporting calendar takes on a more colourful look.

The world's best golfers will try to get the better of those beautifully-manicured greens at Augusta in Georgia as the Masters signals the first major tournament of the year.

The sound of leather on willow will soon be heard as the cricket season swings into action.

And the one horserace of the year that everyone has heard of - the Grand National - is run this Saturday at Aintree.

Becher's Brook, the Chair, the Canal Turn - just three of the daunting 30 fences those brave horses must jump on two circuits of the course that make up the four-and-a-half miles marathon.

First run at Aintree in 1839, the Grand National was won, appropriately, by a horse called Lottery. And when you scroll down the roll of honour, you have to reach 1979 before finding the first and only Scottish-trained winner of the race.

Rubstic - trained in the Borders by John Leadbetter and ridden by Maurice Barnes - held on to win at odds of 25-1.

Could it be - just maybe - that a grey horse trained in Scotland is about to add another chapter to the colourful history of the Grand National?

But what odds a second Scottish winner this weekend? Well, the bookmakers certainly think that Silver By Nature has a real chance. They are taking no chances on the nine-year-old grey who is quoted at around 14-1 to win.

Owned by the chairman of St Johnstone Football Club, Geoff Brown, and trained near Kinross by Lucinda Russell, Silver By Nature went into many people's notebooks after winning the Haydock Grand National Trial earlier this year.

Since then, he has been trained specially for the race with Russell describing him as the "ideal horse" for the race and pinpointing his stamina as his main strength.

Peter Buchanan has ridden Silver By Nature to four of his seven career wins and he believes this horse has all the credentials to win the National.

Another member of the team is Peter Scudamore. He was champion jockey eight times and can include among his big race wins the Champion Hurdle and Champion Chase. But, in common with other champions such as John Francome and Jonjo O'Neill, the Grand National eluded him.

Apart from being assistant trainer, he is also Lucinda's partner and, along with Peter Buchanan, the will sit down on Friday and go through past videos of the National to work out a strategy for the race.

Lucinda describes it as a "team effort" getting Silver By Nature to the start but it's her name that will go down in history if Silver By Nature can see off 39 rivals over those Aintree fences.

Every year, another remarkable story seems to emerge from the Grand National. Remember champion jockey Tony McCoy's win last year after 15 years of trying? Or Bob Champion beating cancer to ride Aldaniti to win the race 30 years ago?

It's 50 years since a grey horse - Nicolaus Silver - won the race.

Could it be - just maybe - that a grey horse trained in Scotland is about to add another chapter to the colourful history of the Grand National?

see also
Field declared for Grand National
07 Apr 11 |  Horse Racing
BBC racing coverage
09 Apr 11 |  Horse Racing
Grand National meeting schedule
23 Mar 11 |  Horse Racing
Silver guns for Aintree gold
07 Mar 11 |  Scotland
Silver By Nature bids for Aintree
07 Mar 11 |  Horse Racing
Hard times for horse racing
29 Jan 10 |  Horse Racing
Silver By Nature tops Welsh list
08 Dec 10 |  Horse Racing

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