Jonjo O’Neill opens Door for fairytale finale

Jonjo O’Neill feels Shutthefrontdoor has the right credentials to give AP McCoy an unforgettable final ride in the Crabbie’s Grand National at Aintree on Saturday week.

Jonjo O’Neill opens Door for fairytale finale

The 19-times champion is likely to retire on the spot if he can clinch his second success in the world’s most famous steeplechase after striking gold with Don’t Push It in 2010.

While fearing no particular horse, O’Neill reckons it is an open race.

“You need a good, classy horse with ability, whereas before you had a good jumper and needed a lot of luck. It is a proper race now, a real good handicap chase,” said the trainer.

“He likes to be up there in the first half of the field and that would be my plan. It doesn’t bother me in the slightest that he is favourite, betting doesn’t come into it.

“I am just training the horse as if he was going for a little race at Stratford. He is spot on and in good form.

“There are plenty of stand outs, but to me, he is as good as any of them and I am not nervous about any of them. I am not frightened of anything in particular.

“It’s a good, open race. I would like to have got a run into him but he had an abscess around in his sinuses back in January and February which took a while to clear up.

“I would have liked to run him at Cheltenham but I decided not to as he was not as well as he is now and I didn’t want him having a hard race.

“Shutthefrontdoor is a lovely horse with a great attitude and is a pleasure to have around the place.”

However, speaking at a media visit to his Jackdaws Castle base, O’Neill was realistic about the chances of a “fairytale” victory for McCoy.

He said: “I think AP will probably ride him and the public will all be backing him looking for that fairytale story.

“We would all love it to happen, but it is a tall order.”

With the money continuing to come for McCoy’s mount and another swell of support expected on the day itself, some bookmakers are taking bets on what price Shutthefrontdoor will be by the time the tapes go up. Betfred quote the eight-year-old at 8-1 to be the shortest-priced National favourite of the modern era, meaning he would need to go off at 100-30 to eclipse the 7-2 starting price of Red Rum in 1975.

Spokesman Andrew Griffith said: “The McCoy factor is driving the odds down all the time and it would be folly to rule out a starting price of less than 7-2.”

Paddy Power offer 11-10 that he has a starting price of between 5-1 and 13-2 inclusive, while it is 2-1 he goes off 9-2 or lower. Sam Twiston-Davies is pleased the media focus is on McCoy as he looks forward to riding last year’s fifth Rocky Creek for Paul Nicholls.

“I’m going there with a strong ride and I couldn’t be happier,” the jockey said.

“The fact that AP (McCoy) is on the favourite in his final year is talking all the attention away from the rest of us and we’re very grateful!

“We can now go there, relax and look forward to it.

“In a normal year my lad and The Druids Nephew would be favourites as they are 9lb and 10lb well-in.

“Rocky has experience of the track, which will help, and while it’s hard to be confident I’m very excited.”

Robbie McNamara has been booked to ride top-weight Lord Windermere for Jim Culloty.

Last season’s Cheltenham Gold Cup hero will attempt to become the first horse to go on and win the Grand National since L’Escargot added the Merseyside showpiece in 1975 to his two wins in the blue riband in 1970-71.

It will be his second ride in the world’s greatest steeplechase after Majestic Concorde got as far as the Canal Turn on the final circuit in 2011.

Like Majestic Concorde, Lord Windermere carries the colours of Dr Ronan Lambe, who is also likely to represented in the National by Spring Heeled.

“It’s a great ride to get and I’m looking forward to it,” said the jockey.

“I sat on Lord Windermere last week and he’s come out of the Gold Cup very well. He was bucking and squealing.

“I’m schooling him at Jim Culloty’s on Friday morning.”

Nick Scholfield is in the frame to partner Spring Heeled and will sit on him on Friday. “It’s not set in stone, yet. I’m going over to school him on Friday,” said the jockey.

One horse who will not be running in the Grand National is Home Farm after he was pulled up in the Gold Cup.Trainer Henry de Bromhead tweeted: “Home Farm won’t run in the National. Didn’t run well in the Gold Cup and he’s not ready for it. Hopefully one day, but not this year.”

n Lewis Ferguson walked away uninjured after a spectacular fall from Merrion Square in the John Dufosee Memorial Open Hunters’ Chase at Wincanton.

The Paul Nicholls-trained nine-year-old looked likely to win approaching the final fence when jinking and unseating the amateur rider.

Despite being nearly stood up on the turf, Ferguson was fired into the fence and his momentum shot him in to the air where he completed a somersault before crashing to the ground.

Officials began to get the screens out, anticipating Ferguson would require medical assistance, but he remarkably got to his feet and walked away unscathed.

Coombe Hill won at 4-1 for trainer and former jockey Chris Honour.

Wincanton clerk of the course Barry Johnson described it as “the worst fall I’ve ever seen.”

He said: “Lewis is absolutely fine, unbelievably. He walked into the parade ring and was chatting away as if nothing had happened, calm as you like.

“It was amazing, I’ve never seen anything like it. It was certainly the worst fall I’ve ever seen and I’m just glad he’s all right because I feared the worst.”

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