Until Saturday January 30th very few people would have thought of the Paul Nicholls trained Taranis as a potential John Smith's Grand National winner, but after a tremendous performance to win Cheltenham's Argento Chase he now looks one to seriously consider, writes Elliot Slater.
Held in high regard by Paul Nicholls since his novice hurdle days, Taranis had developed into a high class chaser, winning a number of feature races including the Grade 1 James Nicholson Wine Merchant Champion Chase at Down Royal in November 2007. Unfortunately, a month later Taranis broke down when taking on Kauto Star in the King George VI Chase at Kempton and had been off the track while going through rehabilitation.
It is a tremendous credit to Nicholls that he was able to produce the French-bred nine-year-old to win at the first time of asking against smart company after a 25 month absence. Taranis didn't just win, he fairly hacked up, cruising around the back for the first circuit before creeping into contention three out and then powering home up the Cheltenham hill to beat the very useful Carruthers with a bit in hand.
The immediate talk after the race was of Taranis providing a fifth string to the Nicholls bow in the Gold Cup in seven weeks time, but mention was also made of a possible tilt at the Grand National if the horse comes out of this race unscathed.
It would be some story if the gelded son of Mansonnien could return from a career-threatening injury to win the greatest steeplechase of all. The Grand National betting odds make him as long as 33/1 for the big race, but a decision as to whether he will be allowed to take his chance will come after the weights have been published. If the handicapper gives him a sporting chance, then it is possible that Taranis might get the green light to tackle the awesome Aintree fences.
The Grand National 2010 looks set to attract some of the best quality horses for years, with the likes of former Gold Cup winner War of Attrition, Hennessey winner State of Play and Irish star Notre Pere all potential starters. Recent National heroes Comply or Die and defending champion Mon Mome, who has been shaping up very promisingly so far this term, are also in contention.