The Grand National is the UK’s most popular horse race and one of the worlds greatest sporting events. Every year forty horses undertake the astounding Aintree course. Four & half miles, with 30 fence jumps, the Grand National is arguably the hardest ordeal of horse and jockey in the world.
Niche Market’s chances at the English Grand National are gradually improving and according to trainer Bob Buckler, he is a ‘model’ horse for the race. His performance in the Newbury Aon Chase where he came second to Tricky Trickster has encouraged bookmakers to make him the clear second favourite for the Aintree race, and at 16/1, is succeeded only by Tricky Trickster himself.
At eleven stone four, Niche Market also caused a massive stir when having been one of four reserves for the 2009 Grand National he was denied a run when there were no non-runners. He then went on to prevail in the Irish National in April as a 33-1 shot, chased home by two horses that had started at 50-1. He was the third United kingdom-trained victor of the Irish National in the last six years, and gave trainer Buckler a very welcome and very new taste of fame. He first took out a training licence fifteen years ago, and the reward money of €141,500 for the Irish National was more than he had won in the whole of the previous season. Buckler admitted that not getting to race in the Grand National may have been a ‘blessing in disguise’, as the Irish National was ‘much more suitable for him.’
Both owner and trainer have always been tremendously optimistic about Niche Market’s prospects, knowing what he is capable of from the offset – he had been entered in big races early on including the Cheltenham National Hunt Chase, in which he came fourth in 2008 and eighth in 2009. He was already proving what he was made of when he won the BGC Silver Cup at Ascot from Monkerhostin in December 2008. However it wasn’t until he came third to the mighty Denman in the 2009 Hennessy Gold Cup that the steeple chase world really began to sit up and pay attention.
Regan, being an Irishman, would prefer if Niche Market was a Cheltenham Gold Cup than an Aintree horse, but that is not the way things have worked out for the horse, which at the end of the day may work out in his favour if he wins in April. The nine year old he has been steadily improving over the past few years and owner Regan expects his weight to go up 2lb or a bit more, which would take his official mark from 148 to 150 nearly for the 2010 National. As Regan says: ‘Niche Market jumps, he gallops and he stays, so in my view, he’s a model for the National.’