Grand National-winning jockey Jason Maguire will miss this year’s renewal of the world’s greatest steeplechase as he sits out the rest of the campaign to recover from injury.
Maguire, who gained Aintree glory on Ballabriggs in 2011, has been plagued with a back problem which the rider is having treated so he can begin next season with a clean bill of health.
“He’s been having some work done on his back so he can start the next season running,” said his agent Chris Broad. He’s been having a bit of trouble with his back.
“He’s going to miss the rest of the season and start afresh on around May 1.
“He’s been bugged with his back and is going to put it right so he doesn’t have any hiccups.”
Maguire damaged his back in a fall at Catterick last month but would have missed Cheltenham anyway because of a 14-day ban.
This is the second year running Maguire has missed both the Cheltenham and Aintree Festivals after a shocking fall at Stratford on the eve of Cheltenham in 2014 left him with serious injuries in hospital.
Meanwhile Paul Nicholls expects to have a four-strong team for the Crabbie’s Grand National at Aintree on April 11.
Rocky Creek, fifth 12 months ago, and progressive young grey Unioniste will lead the champion trainer’s assault on the world’s greatest steeplechase.
They will be supported by Royal Rebellion, winner of the 2013 Grand Sefton over the famous fences, and Mon Parrain, second in the Topham Chase four years ago as Nicholls seeks to win the National for a second time after scoring with Neptune Collonges in 2012.
“I look like having four runners in the Crabbie’s Grand National with Rocky Creek and Unioniste the two leading players for Team Ditcheat,” Nicholls said.
“They will be joined by Rebel Rebellion and Mon Parrain, while I have yet to make a firm decision about Benvolio and Sam Winner taking part.
“Sam Twiston-Davies again rides Rocky Creek at Aintree while Noel Fehily retains the partnership on Unioniste after their impressive success at Sandown.
“Unioniste will appreciate plenty of cut in the ground at Aintree and, like Rocky Creek, continues to give me the right signals at home.
“Hopefully it is a good omen that he is due to run off the same mark and weight as Neptune Collonges in 2012.
“Racing anoraks will tell you that Unioniste is too young at seven to win the National but I take no notice of statistics and trends. For me they are there to be broken.
“I don’t mind admitting that I’ve set my sights on the National with this pair all season and I have probably done a better job with Rocky Creek than Unioniste on a point of handicapping.
“Rebel Rebellion will be ridden by Ryan Mahon as unfortunately his regular jockey Jack Sherwood is not qualified for the race.
“He has more than earned a crack at the National, has already won a Grand Sefton over the fences and while the longer trip is an issue you never know until you try.
“Rebel Rebellion remains in good form and in theory is 7lb well in at Liverpool. Mon Parrain has run well over the National fences before in the Topham.
“He has had loads of training problems but is decent on his day and should give young Sean Bowen a cracking first National ride if he can manage one more winner over fences which will qualify him to take part in the race.
“The ground will need to be soft if Benvolio is to join my quartet. He was bought by Mr and Mrs David Thompson with the National in mind but they are in it for the long game.
“He is fit and well and being trained for Liverpool but if the going is not suitable then we will keep him for the Scottish National or maybe wait until next season. Sam Winner, too, is far from a definite runner at this stage. As he had a hard race in the Gold Cup I would like to see him bouncing again at home before committing him to the National.”
The ultra-consistent six-year-old ran his usual solid race in finishing third behind red-hot favourite Romsdal in the Magnolia Stakes and is set for a swift reappearance. “He ran very well,” said trainer Marco Botti.“He’s a tough horse and the plan is to run him again on Good Friday in the mile-and-a-quarter race.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved