Champion Irish jumps trainer Noel Meade could be double-handed in the John Smith’s Grand National at Aintree on April 8.
Meade has never won the big race, but has two live chances at the Merseyside track this year after revealing Sir Oj and Harbour Pilot are both possible runners.
The former was last seen winning the Robin Cook Memorial Gold Cup at Cheltenham in December and the nine-year-old has another target at Prestbury Park on the agenda before a tilt at the National, for which he has been allotted 10st 8lb.
“The plan for Sir Oj is to go for the Racing Post Plate at Cheltenham first,” said Meade.
“We’ll see how he gets on there and then we’ll consider the Grand National.
“If we decide to go to Aintree, I think he’ll be a live contender. He’s got a lot of class, jumps really well, and Paul Carberry and myself think he will stay - he could be the ideal horse for the National.”
“He hasn’t run since winning the Robin Cook Memorial Gold Cup, although he has been entered up elsewhere only for the weather to intervene. He’s in good form though and I’m happy with his allotted weight. Anything other than sticky ground will suit him.”
Also under consideration for the race is Harbour Pilot, who has been asked to carry 11st 1lb by the handicapper.
The 11-year-old, who finished third behind Best Mate in the totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup in both 2003 and 2004, followed a season out through injury with a comeback point-to-point win at Tinahely in January, before running second to General Montcalm in a hunter chase at Leopardstown on February 12.
“Harbour Pilot will be aimed at the Foxhunter at Cheltenham,” continued the Co. Meath handler.
“After that we’ll make up our minds about whether or not he heads for the National.
“He missed most of last season, won a point-to-point comfortably on his return, and then finished a beaten favourite at Leopardstown last time. I was slightly disappointed with that effort although he hadn’t worked that well beforehand, and probably needed it. He’s come on well for the run though and we’ve been very happy with him since.
“The trip shouldn’t be a problem for him – he’s a real stayer – and he handles most ground, although he wouldn’t want it quick. He’s not certain to run, however, and the Irish National could be a more realistic target.”