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  Junior team eyeing Grand National bid  

David Pipe's Junior enjoyed another very successful time of things last season and hopes are high at Nicolashayne that the eight-year-old will maintain his upward curve in the sport and this time around make the starting line-up for the John Smith's Grand National at Aintree in April, writes Elliot Slater.

The talented Singspiel gelding first made a name for himself when running away with the marathon Ascot Stakes at Royal Ascot in 2010, then went very close in his attempted follow-up in the Goodwood Stakes Handicap at the 'Glorious' meeting a month later, failing by just a length-and-a-half to beat the useful Ghimaar. After a well earned summer break the Middleham Park racing-owned star then switched his attention to steeplechasing and ran a cracker in finishing third to the very classy Midnight Chase in the Grade3 Morson Group Handicap Chase at Cheltenham's November fixture, before running another great race to be second over hurdles on New Year's Day to stable companion Ashkazar in the three-mile Handicap Hurdle. Anyone looking at the Grand National free betting will be keeping an eye on him.

Given an 11-week break before appearing at the Cheltenham Festival, Junior then produced a stunning performance to make all the running and slam a field of smart handicappers by a massive-24 lengths to land the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup under Jamie Codd, a success that saw a flood of money for him in the ante-post market for the Grand National. Unfortunately for his supporters, the Cheltenham win came after the weights had been published for the 'world's greatest steeplechase' and Pipe's charge failed to make the cut, but off a higher mark for the coming season there is every chance that if he stays sound and maintains his form Junior will indeed be amongst the 40 starters at Aintree races 2012.

A best priced 25/1 shot in the ante-post list for the race, Junior is sure to attract plenty of media coverage in the months leading up to the big race.
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