Jockey Sam Twiston-Davies has pinned his colours to the mast of Saphir Du Rheu for the Randox Health Grand National at Aintree in a fortnight.
Retained jockey to champion trainer Paul Nicholls, Twiston-Davies had recently suggested he had ‘a few to choose from’ for the world’s most famous steeplechase on April 8 but he now appears committed to Saphir Du Rheu.
Nicholls could be sending forward the likes of Le Mercurey, Vicente and Wonderful Charm from his Ditcheat base in an attempt to add to the 2012 victory of Neptune Collonges in the Aintree showpiece, but his number one jockey appears to have no doubts on their leading contender.
Vicente, currently 22/1 to win the Aintree showpiece, won the Scottish Grand National in 2016 and was a sixth-place finisher in the Welsh National at Chepstow over Christmas, underlining his love for a severe test of stamina.
While that form is respected by Twiston-Davies, he has been taken with Saphir Du Rheu after the eight-year-old put up a fine performance recently when coming home fifth behind Sizing John in the Gold Cup at Cheltenham.
Doubts have often hung over the jumping of the Andy Stewart-owned Saphir Du Rheu, particularly when Nicholls took the decision to revert to hurdling during recent seasons.
The champion trainer expressed his delight at the way Saphir Du Rheu ran at Cheltenham recently and has confirmed the 20/1 chance is going to Aintree.
Nicholls clearly feels the old problems are behind his charge and it seems that is a view shared by his stable jockey.
“He got into a lovely jumping rhythm in the Gold Cup and looks a well-handicapped horse,” Twiston-Davies told the Mirror.
“He’s got form round the Grade 1 tracks and he jumped from fence to fence the day he won at Aintree.
“Vicente usually finds his form in the spring, and we know he stays four miles from his Scottish National win, but it will be hard to get off Saphir Du Rheu.”
Twiston-Davies’ father Nigel has twice before landed the Grand National spoils with Earth Summit in 1998 and Bindaree four years later.
The Naunton handler looks to have another leading contender for 2017 in the shape of 12/1 chance Blaklion, though he won’t be able to call on the services of his sons to ride.
Sam will be retained by Nicholls while younger brother Willy is out injured following a fall at Cheltenham, ensuring Twiston-Davies snr has already taken evasive action and booked Champion Hurdle and Queen Mother-winning rider Noel Fehily to partner Blaklion in the Grand National.
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