Unioniste has a good chance says Hales

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Owner John Hales is in the elite club of having already won the Crabbie’s Grand National with one grey Neptune Collonges and he will try to repeat the feat with Unioniste.

Like Neptune Collonges he is trained by Paul Nicholls but Unioniste is only seven, so statistics are against him.

However, Unioniste did win a valuable chase at Cheltenham as just a four-year-old so he is more mature than most.

“I hope he’s got a chance, it’s a bit of a lottery as you need a lot of luck on the day,” Hales admitted.

“But he jumps well, he stays and I hope he comes home safe and sound and anything other than that is a bonus.

“He certainly franked the form when he was third to (Gold Cup winner) Coneygree, I’m hopeful but I just want him to come back safe, you can’t go to the National expecting anything else than that.”

Unioniste is a 20-1 chance with Paddy Power, with last year’s hero Pineau De Re quoted at 16-1.

The latter bids to become the first dual winner since Red Rum, and while he has not been in the best of form this season, trainer Dr Richard Newland is not without hope.

He said: “I’m very happy with him, he’s not shown as much on the track this year as last year,
but personally I think he has shown enough since Christmas in two hurdle runs. He’s in great form and as long as nothing goes wrong in the next nine days we are definitely on track for a big run. Daryl (Jacob) came and schooled him over the National fences in Lambourn and we are thrilled to have Daryl.”

Newland also has another contender in dour stayer Royale Knight, and he added: “I think he’s definitely the right sort of horse, the only thing I’d say is you wouldn’t know if he’s quite got the class.

“He started at a low level and he’s gone up and up and up and kept improving, but he’s going to have to keep improving as he has never run against this class of horse before. Will he get too far behind early on?

“That’s the big question mark, but there’s not too many that will want four and a half miles more than he will.

“If he’s still in the running with a mile to go I think it gets interesting.”

Frankie Dettori celebrates after winning the Betway Great Voltigeur Stakes on Cracksman. PIC: Tim Goode/PA Wire

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