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Confidence growing for Roi Mage’s Grand National challenge.

After he beat Longhouse Poet at Down Royal, connections of Roi Mage are becoming increasingly optimistic about his chances in the Randox Grand National.

He is a best-priced 50-1 chance to win the world-famous steeplechase and trains for the same owners who brought Auroras Encore to the race in 2013.

Roi Mage, like Auroras Encore, trained by Sue Smith, is a 11-year-old horse at the bottom of the handicap. Last year, he narrowly missed the big race.

Trainer Patrick Griffin initially targeted Aintree this season, but his participation was in doubt after suffering an injury at Cheltenham in January.

The trainer’s son and assistant, James Griffin, explained: “After Cheltenham, we didn’t think we would have a horse for the rest of the season, because he cut himself very badly in the Cross Country and genuinely we thought he would be gone for the season.

“Thanks to the Cheltenham veterinary team, specifically Ian Camm, who spent two hours on his hands and knees under the horse, with his finger tip, cleaning the wound meticulously, the dream is still alive.

“The horse cut himself very badly, we were a bit touch and go. But the horse was back being ridden out after three weeks and then it was on to Down Royal, where he ran a hell of a race.”

When beaten a length and a quarter at Down Royal, Roi Mage conceded weight to Longhouse Poet. At Aintree, however, the weights will be reversed, with Roi Mage receiving 10st 8lb and Longhouse Poet receiving 11st.

“We were chuffed,” added Griffin. “I thought he’d run well and we think that would put him spot on. It is all systems go for Aintree now.

“He missed the cut by one last year but because he won at Down Royal last year, he went up 9lb to a mark of 149.”

He went on: “So, the plan all season was the Grand National. The plan always was to start in France, which we did. He finished third at Compiegne, giving both the winner and runner-up weight, and was only beaten just over two lengths.

“We were always working back from April 15 and he has come out of Down Royal bouncing. He has no weight on his back over that trip. We genuinely can’t wait.

“He’ll handle soft ground. If this (unsettled) weather holds up, then happy days. He’ll stay, we think he will. He has jumped round Auteuil, so Aintree shouldn’t be a problem.”

After breaking his tibia in a fall on February 19 at Pau, connections are still hopeful that three-time French champion jump jockey James Reveley will be fit enough to ride.

Griffin added: “We are hoping James will be back in time to ride him.

“There are a mass of trials over the big Easter weekend at Auteuil and that is what he is aiming to be back for.

“We want James to ride him, but if he can’t, then we have two other riders in our heads.”

Since arriving from France, Roi Mage has only had five runs over fences for Griffin. He has won eight of his 38 starts over fences, placed three times, and the yard is increasingly confident of a strong performance at the Liverpool track.

“You can’t fancy a horse in the National, but realistically we know we have a horse who is capable of a big performance,” said Griffin.

“He has form in the book, he has a bit of speed – he won over two-miles-three 18 months ago – and he is relatively fresh. All season we have worked round the National and genuinely, we can’t wait.”

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