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Grand National: Sir Alex Ferguson's horse set for run

Sir Alex Ferguson

April 2010: Ferguson's horse triumphs at Aintree

All the Grand National entries

JOHN SMITH'S GRAND NATIONAL Aintree, Saturday 9 April
Coverage: Live on BBC TV, Radio 5 live and online

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson is targeting a big win in Liverpool - with a horse he part-owns.

What A Friend was just edged out for third by Kauto Star in the Cheltenham Gold Cup won by Long Run on Friday.

And trainer Paul Nicholls says the eight-year-old will run in the Grand National at Aintree on 9 April - if the ground is good.

Rated a 16-1 shot for the famous race, What A Friend is already a dual Grade One winner.

He won the Totesport Bowl at Aintree in April 2010, after which jockey Ruby Walsh indicated he might be suited to the National.

However, Irishman Walsh would not be on board for Ferguson, despite being a keen United fan, because Somerset-based Nicholls has pledged to retain Daryl Jacob, who had the ride in the Gold Cup.

"I'm delighted to keep the ride and I thought he ran a cracking race in the Gold Cup," Jacob told At The Races.

"He stayed on really well, jumped really well and I got a great ride off him. He stands out as a real Grand National-type horse.

"These opportunities don't come round very often and when they do, you've got to grab it with both hands.

"I'm very thankful to Paul and of course Sir Alex for keeping me on top of the horse.

"The horse seemed very fresh and very well when I pulled him up the other day and when he came back into the winner's enclosure he felt like he'd won it. "I'm hoping he hasn't taken that much out of himself. He should be OK."

Walsh's National options include Niche Market for Nicholls and The Midnight Club for Irish trainer Willie Mullins.

Nicholls is champion trainer and has won a host of top races, including the Gold Cup four times, but is still waiting for his first Grand National victory.

At Cheltenham he trained the second, third and fourth behind Long Run, with Denman runner-up in what many observers considered the best running of recent years.

After the Gold Cup, Ferguson had indicated What A Friend - who wore blinkers for the first time - might not go to Aintree.

"I can't think of seeing a better race than that," said the 69-year-old Scot in the winner's enclosure at Cheltenham.

"He had three great horses in front of him so we are delighted with him. We might look at the Scottish National."

But Nicholls is now leaning towards the Grand National, partly because the horse's handicap mark - which dictates the weight he will carry - is set to go up following his Gold Cup run.

Nicholls, Ferguson, Walsh and What A Friend
Nicholls, Ferguson, Walsh and What A Friend at Aintree in 2010

The weights for the National were announced in February, with What A Friend towards the top on 11st 6lb.

Official handicapper Phil Smith had based his mark on a rating of 156, but said he rated him at 171 after Cheltenham, theoretically making the horse 15lb "well in" at the weights.

The 2010 winner Don't Push It heads 82 entries currently remaining in the Grand National with a maximum field of 40 allowed to line up for the four-and-a-half-mile handicap chase over demanding fences such as Becher's Brook and the Chair.

The final field is determined by each contender's rating, with the highest-weighted horses given preference.

Whether Ferguson would attend Aintree to see the horse he owns jointly with friend Ged Mason is open to doubt.

Manchester United have a home match against Fulham, which kicks off at 1500 GMT, on Grand National day, with the race due to start at 1615 GMT.

The United boss has interests in several horses. His most high-profile involvement was with the brilliant Flat horse Rock of Gibraltar.

Ferguson led Rock of Gibraltar into the winner's enclosure during his early successes but an ownership dispute with wealthy Irish racing duo John Magnier and JP McManus resulted in the end of the association.

McManus owns more than 200 horses and his 2011 Grand National possibles include last year's winner Don't Push It and Welsh National victor Synchronised.

Aintree Grand National entries

Number Form Name Weight Age Trainer

1) 23P1-P00 DON'T PUSH IT (IRE) 11-11-10 Jonjo O'Neill

2) 104-322 TIDAL BAY (IRE) 10-11-09 Howard Johnson

3) 1-41111 MIDNIGHT CHASE 9-11-08 Neil Mulholland

4) 1P46-3U3 DEEP PURPLE 10-11-07 Evan Williams

5) 131-561 SYNCHRONISED (IRE) 8-11-06 Jonjo O'Neill

6) 501B-004 VIC VENTURI (IRE) 11-11-06 Dessie Hughes IRE

7) 61/211-52 WHAT A FRIEND 8-11-06 Paul Nicholls

8) U62/1-31 MAJESTIC CONCORDE (IRE) 8-11-05 Dermot Weld IRE

9) 2F1425 OR NOIR DE SOMOZA (FR) 9-11-05 Racing David Pipe

10) 01F24-41 DOONEYS GATE (IRE) 10-11-04 Willie Mullins IRE

11) 20-35344 SCOTSIRISH (IRE) 10-11-02 Willie Mullins IRE

12) 2U14-2F4 BIG FELLA THANKS 9-11-01 Ferdy Murphy

13) 3111-11 BALLABRIGGS (IRE) 10-11-00 Donald McCain

14) UP-36310 TATENEN (FR) 7-11-00 Richard Rowe

15) 205-244 THE TOTHER ONE (IRE) 10-11-00 Paul Nicholls

16) 520P-F5 NICHE MARKET (IRE) 10-10-13 Paul Nicholls

17) U3133-21 THE MIDNIGHT CLUB (IRE) 10-10-13 Willie Mullins IRE

18) 0BP-500 BACKSTAGE (FR) 9-10-12 Gordon Elliott IRE

19) 30011-05 CHIEF DAN GEORGE (IRE) 11-10-12 Jimmy Moffatt

20) 5121-001 SILVER BY NATURE 9-10-12 Lucinda Russell

21) 4UP-250 NOTRE PERE (FR) 10-10-11 Barry Potts IRE

22) 4-56242 CALGARY BAY (IRE) 8-10-10 Henrietta Knight

23) P2P-253 KILLYGLEN (IRE) 9-10-10 Stuart Crawford IRE

24) 1/2100-P5 TRICKY TRICKSTER (IRE) 8-10-10 Paul Nicholls

25) 3152-263 OSCAR TIME (IRE) 10-10-09 Martin Lynch IRE

26) 032236- SNOWY MORNING (IRE) 11-10-09 Colin Bowe IRE

27) 0100-03 BALLYTRIM (IRE) 10-10-08 Willie Mullins IRE

28) 2212-42 BECAUSEICOULDNTSEE (IRE) 8-10-08 Noel Glynn IRE

29) 2/000-06P COMPLY OR DIE (IRE) 12-10-08 David Pipe

30) 1-122B0 NEDZER'S RETURN (IRE) 9-10-08 Gordon Elliott IRE

31) P-5500423 NORTHERN ALLIANCE (IRE) 10-10-08 Tony Martin IRE

32) 510-1131 QUINZ (FR) 7-10-08 Philip Hobbs

33) 2F-FF25 QUOLIBET (FR) 7-10-08 Jonjo O'Nell

34) 11FP10P GRAND SLAM HERO (IRE) 10-10-07 Nigel Twiston-Davies

35) 3P6/454-P6 ROLL ALONG (IRE) 11-10-07 Nigel Twiston-Davies

36) P22-41F GULLIBLE GORDON (IRE) 8-10-06 Paul Nicholls

37) 3211-11P KING FONTAINE (IRE) 8-10-06 Malcolm Jefferson

38) 0/144/P3- STATE OF PLAY 11-10-06 Evan Williams

39) 21PP-PP DREAM ALLIANCE 10-10-05 Philip Hobbs

40) 005P-1P HELLO BUD (IRE) 13-10-05 Nigel Twiston-Davies

41) 566U-3431 IN COMPLIANCE (IRE) 11-10-05 Dessie Hughes IRE

42) 6-220001 SANTA'S SON (IRE) 11-10-05 Howard Johnson

43) 2P/00-11P WEST END ROCKER (IRE) 9-10-05 Alan King

44) 0C21-046 BLUESEA CRACKER (IRE) 9-10-04 James Motherway IRE

45) 16F-0P5 CAN'T BUY TIME (IRE) 9-10-04 Jonjo O'Neill

46) 000-3056 CHARACTER BUILDING (IRE) 11-10-04 John Quinn

47) 1215/1P/-5 ORNAIS (FR) 9-10-04 Paul Nicholls

48) 00P-234P PIRAYA (FR) 8-10-04 David Pipe

49) PP2/111/- SURFACE TO AIR 10-10-04 Chris Bealby

50) 301050 THAT'S RHYTHM (FR) 11-10-04 Martin Todhunter

51) 0U2F-0P2 ARBOR SUPREME (IRE) 9-10-03 Willie Mullins IRE

52) 1F3U-P1U FRANKIE FIGG (IRE) 9-10-03 Howard Johnson

53) 1P0-053U ONE COOL COOKIE (IRE) 10-10-03 Charlie Swan IRE

54) 013111- OUR MONTY (IRE) 8-10-03 Willie Mullins IRE

55) P5U-42P ROYAL ROSA (FR) 12-10-03 Howard Johnson

56) 0P1-0060 ALWAYS WAINING (IRE) 10-10-02 Peter Bowen

57) 421001 GOLDEN KITE (IRE) 9-10-02 Adrian Maguire IRE

58) P1P-41U MEANUS DANDY (IRE) 8-10-02 Paul Nicholls

59) 41/313-01 SKIPPERS BRIG (IRE) 10-10-02 Nicky Richards

60) 1F4/22-1P BELON GALE (IRE) 8-10-01 Howard Johnson

61) 3/402P-0 FAASEL (IRE) 10-10-01 David Pipe

62) 3P-02043 LE BEAU BAI (FR) 8-10-01 Richard Lee

63) 0D61-0F MERIGO (FR) 10-10-01 Andrew Parker

64) 321112 PUTNEY BRIDGE 9-10-01 Keith Goldsworthy

65) 256-0216 ASKTHEMASTER (IRE) 11-10-00 Robert Tyner IRE

66) 363221- DEV (IRE) 11-10-00 Gordon Elliott IRE

67) F123-P22 GILES CROSS (IRE) 9-10-00 Victor Dartnall

68) 111U0-66 SADDLERS STORM (IRE) 9-10-00 Tony Martin IRE

69) 11P61/0/- STARZAAN (IRE) 12-10-00 Hughie Morrison

70) 60U0-60 AMBOBO (USA) 11-9-13 Martin Brassil IRE

71) 05241P DUERS (IRE) 9-9-13 Paul Magnier IRE

72) 31-PP11P SAGALYRIQUE (FR) 7-9-13 Donald McCain

73) 311120- TOBY JUG 10-9-13 Sarah Humphrey

74) 5/2613-P GALANT NUIT (FR) 7-9-12 Ferdy Murphy

75) 3131-32 JUNIOR 8-9-12 David Pipe

76) 00-50642 THE SAWYER (BEL) 11-9-12 Bob Buckler

77) 40F-04452 BALLYFITZ 11-9-09 Nigel Twiston-Davies

78) P0-24U344 I'MONCLOUDNINE (IRE) 8-9-09 Neil Mulholland

79) PF4-536 POMME TIEPY (FR) 8-9-09 Willie Mullins IRE

80) 204/12-PP THE SLIOTAR (IRE) 10-9-08 Philip Hobbs

81) F/116PP- TREACLE (IRE) 10-9-04 Bjorn Nielsen IRE

82) 560-P2322 REGAL HEIGHTS (IRE) 10-9-02 Tom George

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see also
Nicholls enters 10 for National
02 Feb 11 |  Horse Racing
Long Run clinches Gold Cup glory
18 Mar 11 |  Horse Racing
What A Friend wins for Ferguson
08 Apr 10 |  Horse Racing
Ferguson's Friend lands Lexus win
29 Dec 09 |  Horse Racing
McCoy ends wait for National win
11 Apr 10 |  Horse Racing
Denman ruled out of National run
29 Nov 10 |  Horse Racing
BBC racing coverage
09 Apr 11 |  Horse Racing

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