David Pipe is feeling confident that Vieux Lion Rouge will have a big chance of winning the 2017 Randox Health Grand National Handicap Chase at Aintree on Saturday.
The Pond House handler has tasted the ultimate success in the world’s most famous steeplechase once before when Comply Or Die won in 2008.
Then, his charge was joint-favourite at the off and Pipe is staring into a similar scenario now with Vieux Lion Rouge.
The French-bred eight-year-old is unbeaten in two starts this season and is currently the 10/1 favourite to take victory in the Grand National.
While he is confident that all is well for now, Pipe is understandably just hoping to get Vieux Lion Rouge to the starting tapes in perfect condition, and he faces an anxious few days.
Big-race jockey Tom Scudamore will be at Pipe’s yard early this week to put the horse through his final schooling session before Saturday’s race.
“He is in good form, a week is a long time with horses but he is in good form at present and we will try to keep it that way,” Pipe told Racing UK.
“He had a break after his last race building him up to next weekend. Tom will be in to school him this week. Hopefully it will be OK and then away we go.”
Vieux Lion Rouge finished seventh in the Grand National a year ago behind Rule The World. This term, he has won both starts, including the Becher Chase over the National fences in December.
He was also mightily impressive in defeating Blaklion – 12/1 to win the National for trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies – in Haydock’s Grand National Trial in February.
Pipe feels his charge has grown up over the last 12 months and he says that Vieux Lion Rouge ‘ticks a lot of the boxes’ required to succeed at Aintree.
“I think he has probably made himself, in that he is a boy that has just turned into a man really. For a French horse, he is quite a late maturer,” Pipe added.
“He seems to jump the National fences well. With luck in running he ticks a lot of the boxes and hopefully he will run a big race.”
Pipe could have as many as three contenders in the race, as he confirmed his intention to also run Ballynagour and Doctor Harper, if he makes the cut.
Ballynagour is 66/1 to win the race and his trainer admits that he ‘can run extremely well or extremely badly’ while his preference these days is for dryer ground.