Ok Corral set to shoulder Henderson’s hopes of elusive National victory
The Seven Barrows handler has been champion trainer on multiple occasions and has won just about every prize the National Hunt game has to offer – apart from the world’s most famous steeplechase.
Henderson has not yet managed to better the second place of Zongalero, who was his first first runner in 1979, but it has not been for the want of trying.
Speaking on a Zoom call to promote the Randox Grand National Festival on Thursday, he said: “We’ve had a lot of chances.
“In our first ever year Zongalero was second. I wouldn’t say I thought it was going to be easy. I was numb, to be honest with you, by the end of it.
“As you start to get further and further round and know you’re in the hunt, it gets very exciting. We’ve had lots of times we’ve got to Becher’s second time and we’re thinking ‘this is going well’, and then crash, bang, wallop!
“We’ve had lots of horses placed, but then I think we had six consecutive fallers at the first! It’s just been one of those races.”
While insisting there are no thoughts of retirement in his mind, the 70-year-old admits he will not have many more chances to break his National hoodoo.
He added: “The clock is ticking!
“The National is very special to everybody. It would be nice to get it on the CV, but if it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen.
“If you haven’t got a National horse, it’s hard to make one.
“We have found some very good two-mile chasers, but we can’t find a four-mile chaser.”
Ok Corral schooled over fences this morning and that was very good.
Having scratched top-weight Santini and ruled out running Beware The Bear, Golden Present and Pym, Henderson’s only remaining contenders are Ok Corral and Valtor, although the latter is far from certain to make the cut.
The coronavirus pandemic put paid to an initial National 12 months ago for Ok Corral, who won the 2020 Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster in January before pulling up on his return from over a year on the sidelines at Cheltenham last month.
Leading Irish amateur Derek O’Connor is in line for the ride.
Henderson said: “The only one really is Ok Corral. Valtor needs a lot of horses to come out, but if he got in, he would come into it.
“Ok Corral schooled over fences this morning and that was very good.
“The plan is for Derek O’Connor, who knows him well, to ride him. As long as all the work goes well in the morning, I’m going to give Derek the green light, because I think the poor guy hasn’t had a meal for three weeks!
“The horse jumped really well this morning. AP (McCoy) was down here with us and we were were all very happy.
“I’m not rushing down to the bookies to back him, but if you’re not in you can’t win and once you’re one of the 40 runners going down to the first fence, you’ve as good a chance as any.”