Syncronised - Cheltenham - 16/03/2012

Synchronised (near side) on his way to Gold Cup victory last Friday

  PICTURE: Mark Cranham (  

O'Neill keen on National bid with Synchronised

THE PROSPECT of Synchronised becoming just the second horse in history to land the John Smith's Grand National and the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup in the same season remains a distinct possibility, after trainer Jonjo O'Neill said on Tuesday that he saw "no reason" not to run in the Aintree marathon on April 14.

Golden Miller, the winner of five consecutive Gold Cups [1932-36], is the only horse to complete the double when winning at Aintree in 1934 and despite connections of recent Gold Cup winners rarely considering a tilt at the National, O'Neill thinks it's the obvious race for the JP McManus-owned nine-year-old.       

"Synchronised has come out of Cheltenham fine and we'll make a decision nearer the time whether we go or not but there's no reason why not at the moment," said the trainer on Tuesday.

He added: "He's in great form and if he comes back to the form he was in at Cheltenham then why wouldn't you go there?"

Betfred's 8-1 favourite could be joined in the race by stablemates Sunnyhillboy, also a winner at Cheltenham and a 20-1 shot, and Arbor Supreme (40-1) according to O'Neill.

Jonjo O'Neill trainer

Jonjo O'Neill: three contenders

  PICTURE: Martin Lynch  

The trainer said:  "Sunnyhillboy is also in good form. He stayed well at Cheltenham the other day and I think he'll probably get the trip. He's a contender hopefully.

"Things have gone wrong the last couple of times with Arbor Supreme, he's a little bit difficult to get right. He'sworking well and in good form with himself and if he comes back to his best form then he'd have a chance."

The BHA's head of handicapping, Phil Smith, says both Synchronised and Sunnyhillboy would be favourably treated in the National following their Cheltenham wins, although Sunnyhillboy, rather than his more illustrious stablemate, would be the more leniently treated. 

Smith said: "The slight advantage Synchronised has is that he is now on a mark of 168 after the Gold Cup and he'd be running in this race off a mark of 161 so technically he's 7lb well in.

"Sunnyhillboy was the widest margin handicap winner at Cheltenham and has gone up 10lb so technically he is well in by that amount and the runner-up in his race, Becauseicouldntsee (20-1), has gone up 5lb so they would have a different rating now if I reframed the race."

O'Neill also confirmed that Ryanair Chase runner-up Albertas Run and Get Me Out Of Here, second in the Coral Cup, are likely runners at the three-day meeting that starts on April 12.

As sporting sights go, few match the sheer excitement of 40 horses thundering towards the first fence at Aintree for the John Smith's Grand National.

A race steeped in history that always provides a story, the Grand National is the ultimate test of endurance and skill for both horse and jockey, as the pairing must navigate 30 treacherous fences, and then still have enough stamina to make a challenge on the run-in.

To manage a clear round in the 4m4f epic is no mean achievement, with the fences notoriously difficult and offering unique challenges.

Over the years, there have been countless memorable moments, Devon Loch's phantom leap in the 1956 contest, Foinavon's shock 100-1 win in 1967 and the brilliance of Red Rum, who took the chase on three occasions in 1973, 74 and 77.

In 1981 Aldaniti and Bob Champion completed a heartwarming tale when winning the race, as Aldaniti had recovered from a career-threatening injury while jockey Champion had battled back from cancer.

In 2011 the race provided another fairytale story as Donald McCain emulated his father and Aintree legend Ginger when winning with Ballabriggs - and that came just a year after champion jockey Tony McCoy finally gained victory in the race at the 15th time of asking.