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 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