Grand National: Calgary Bay has Knight scenting Aintree glory
JOHN SMITH'S GRAND NATIONAL 2012
- Saturday 14 April
- Start time:
- 1615 BST
- BBC television, radio and online
Henrietta Knight knows all about winning the biggest prizes at jump-racing's Cheltenham Festival; now she is looking to scale the sport's iconic heights at Aintree.
Eight years on from saddling Best Mate to land a historic third Cheltenham Gold Cup, the Oxfordshire trainer believes she has just the horse to add the Grand National trophy to her crowded sideboard.
He is Calgary Bay, a faller in 2011, but heading to this year's race - for which he has been allotted a high but fair weight of 11st 6lb - as one of the form-horses in the field.
"Calgary Bay has come of age this season," said Knight, for whom the horse is set to be a seventh Grand National runner.
"He's a great big horse and a late maturer, and we were running him aged four when he'd hardly developed, but he has now, fully.
"The fences will really suit him this time, just so long as he doesn't jump too well. Last year he over-jumped at the fourth and landed on his knees, and that was it. I'm sure he'll be more sensible.
"He's reached his prime, and we have [the vastly experienced] Dominic Elsworth to ride, which is a big help. It's pretty exciting."
Knight, 65, assisted by husband Terry Biddlecombe, the colourful three-time champion jump jockey of the 1960s, has care of 35 horses at stables close to Wantage.
Numbers are well down on the glory days of Best Mate, whose Gold Cup hat-trick emulated the feat of steeplechasing great Arkle, but any gloom has lifted during a good run since Christmas.
Somersby, like Calgary Bay owned by Tim and Camilla Radford, became a live contender for next month's Cheltenham Festival - probably for the Ryanair Chase - when bouncing back to winning ways at Ascot in January.
"It had become frustrating," said Knight, "but it's been good to have a purple patch. The horses have been well. I've got them in the right races and for once January has not been like a bog so the ground's been nice.
"We go for quality over quantity now and have some nice young horses. And, of course, don't forget Terry's been back racing again [after a stroke]. He's definitely our lucky charm."
Biddlecombe, who missed the chance to ride 1970 Grand National winner Gay Trip after damaging a kidney in a fall, is now prone to sudden nosebleeds because of his condition.
They tend to creep up during moments of high drama but, however inconvenient, I suspect he will be secretly hoping for a recurrence at Aintree - as Calgary Bay takes the lead with the finishing line in sight.