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Last Updated: Wednesday, 9 February, 2005, 15:49 GMT
Where is the Aintree fairytale?
Cornelius Lysaght
By Cornelius Lysaght
BBC Sport horse racing correspondent

Grand National at Aintree
It was not only the owners, trainers, jockeys and breeders that began to dream big dreams at the launch of the 2005 John Smith's Grand National.

With the announcement of the weights that the runners that line up on 9 April will be required to carry comes the official start of the countdown to Aintree.

And while the above groups imagine all kinds of financial prizes that springtime on Merseyside offers, we in the media have an equally sunny outlook, if rather less lucrative.

Some of sport's rosiest and most dramatic fairytales - our currency - have emerged from the Grand National, stories that surpass most of the rest of the news agenda.

We suddenly become the stuff of front pages, headlines on radio and TV bulletins, and major players when the various reviews of the year appear.

On that point, look at Ginger McCain and Amberleigh House last April.

The year 2004 was an Olympic year, there was the European football championship, England's rugby union players were world champions, the Ryder Cup came east, but for many McCain's success stood out.

I suppose that you could say that with his irrepressible manner, colourful turn of phrase and easily recalled history, with Red Rum, McCain, is not a good example.

But there are so many others: Bob Champion's triumph on Aldaniti (1981) or Jenny Pitman's victories with Corbiere (1983) and Royal Athlete (1995) are just three.

Add in the false starts and voided race of 1993 and the delayed win, because of a bomb scare, achieved by Lord Gyllene (1997) and you have a series of wild plots of which JK Rowling would be proud.

Making the potential romantic stories your bet for the race is not the silliest system in the world.

And in such a vein I have picked out three horses for the "fairytale stakes" at Aintree 2005:

AMBERLEIGH HOUSE Trainer: Ginger McCain Jockey: Graham Lee

Having won the race under Graham Lee last season, the Ginger McCain-trained Amberleigh House may not seem like the most original of choices, but what headlines he would achieve.

It would make McCain, or Mr Grand National as they called him during the Red Rum era, the most successful trainer in the race's near 170-year history, with five wins.

Imagine him roaring with delight, and then welling up as he told of going to Red Rum's grave (at Aintree) and him telling all about it.

Odds: 20-1.

FOREST GUNNER Trainer: Richard Ford Jockey: Carrie Ford

I am not sure what McCain makes of women being jockeys- actually, I am- but Carrie Ford, rider of Forest Gunner, has shown she knows what it takes to face up to the Aintree challenge.

Last year, 10 weeks after giving birth to her first baby, Hannah, Ford won the Foxhunters over the famous fences on this horse, trained by her husband Richard.

Afterwards, she retired, but the bubbly 33-year-old is to make a comeback for the ride. No female rider has won the race, but victory would not be a major shock.

Odds: 25-1.

STRONG RESOLVE Trainer: Lucinda Russell Jockey: Peter Buchanan

The Scots have not tasted Aintree Grand National glory since Rubstic (1979), but trainer Lucinda Russell, the holder- a rarity amongst trainers of a BSc in psychology- is minded to put the record straight with Strong Resolve.

And Russell, as bubbly as Carrie Ford, and frequently mistaken for her, has had her appetite for Grand National success raised by some near misses, in the Scottish National, twice, and in December's Welsh National with Strong Resolve. He was second.

As Robert The Bruce once said, if at first you don't succeed¿

Odds: 25-1.

Three fairy stories waiting to be told. There are others as well, of course, and one of them will almost certainly come true.




SEE ALSO
Grey Abbey top weight for Aintree
08 Feb 05 |  Horse Racing
Grand National's crowning glory
10 Feb 05 |  Fun and Games


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