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8 Jan 2015

Could the 2015 Grand National be a Ladies' Day again?

It is 20 years since Jenny Pitman trained the second of her Grand National winners, so could 2015 provide another female-trained winner of the race?
Pitman became the first female to train the National winner in 1983 with Corbiere and followed up in 1995 with Royal Athlete.
There have been two female-trained winners of the Aintree showpiece in more recent years, with Venetia Williams saddling Mon Mome to success in 2009 and Sue Smith sending out Auroras Encore to win two years ago.
Looking at the early odds for the 2015 Grand National, and the two female-trained horses who catch the eye are Shotgun Paddy  [pictured] and Teaforthree.

Shotgun Paddy is trained by Emma Lavelle and has had this season’s Grand National as his long-term target after finishing second in the National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival last year.
He was beaten just a neck by Midnight Prayer that day, but perhaps more interestingly, he was around three lengths ahead of Shutthefrontdoor. Jonjo O’Neill’s horse went on to win the Irish Grand National and is at the forefront of the market for the Aintree equivalent.
This season, Shotgun Paddy was beaten a long way over hurdles on his reappearance at Newbury before being burdened with top weight in the Welsh Grand National at Chepstow.
A false start scuppered his chances as he was slow to get going at the second attempt before making an early mistake. He was soon pulled up by jockey Leighton Aspell, who won last year’s National on Pineau De Re.
The eight-year-old will now bid to put his Grand National claims back on track by seeking a repeat win in the Classic Chase at Warwick on Saturday.
Shotgun Paddy survived a far from fluent last fence jump to win the same race 12 months ago when he was a novice and he is now only two pounds higher in the handicap.
The going could play a factor in Shotgun Paddy’s Grand National chances, though, with Lavelle feeling that better ground is not necessarily a help to the horse’s jumping.
Lavelle also trains Highland Lodge, who had been mooted earlier in the season as a possible National contender. However, Highland Lodge only finished eighth in the Becher Chase at Aintree in December and looks too low in the weights to get into the Grand National itself.
As for Teaforthree, the Rebecca Curtis-trained 11-year-old has already had two attempts to win the National.
In 2013, Teaforthree finished third behind Smith’s Auroras Encore. He travelled well for a long way and, at one stage, looked a likely winner before running out of steam after the last.
Last year, though, Teaforthree unseated his rider, Nick Scholfield, at the Chair when sent off joint-favourite for the race. What would be a concern is that Scholfield felt Teaforthree did not have the same enthusiasm last year as he had in 2013.
Teaforthree has not run since unseating Scholfield, but has been entered for the Skybet Chase at Doncaster at the end of the month, which could be the first port of call en route to a third National tilt.
His age should not be a barrier given that the last three winners of the National have all been 11-year-olds. He is also still on a reasonable handicap mark of 151, which was the same rating he had when finishing third in 2013.
The last two female-trained winners of the National were sent off at 100/1 and 66/1, respectively, but it is hard to see Shotgun Paddy and Teaforthree going off at those prices if they make it to the big day.