It has been 68 years since a mare won the Randox Health Grand National.
Her name was Nickel Coin and she came home six lengths in front of Royal Tan. In more recent years, the latest mare to be placed was Dubacilla, fourth behind Royal Athlete in 1995.
A mare on the trail for the 2019 renewal of the world’s greatest and most valuable chase, which has a prize fund of £1 million and is staged at Aintree on Saturday, April 6, is Ms Parfois (Anthony Honeyball, 10st 2lb).
She is a 33/1 chance with Betway, official betting partner of the Randox Health Grand National Festival.
The eight-year-old enjoyed a fine spring in 2018, when she finished runner-up at both the Cheltenham and Aintree Festivals. At Cheltenham, she was the half-length runner-up to fellow Randox Health Grand National aspirant Rathvinden (Willie Mullins IRE, 10st 10lb, 28/1 with Betway) in the four-mile G2 National Hunt Novices’ Chase while at Aintree she went down by just under four lengths to Terrefort in the G1 Betway Mildmay Novices’ Chase over three miles and a furlong. On her one outing so far this season, Ms Parfois came home sixth in the valuable G3 Ladbrokes Trophy Handicap Chase at Newbury in December.
Honeyball, who is based in Dorset, revealed: “I have had a good look at the weights and Ms Parfois is on 146, which is her actual rating. If she got in the National, the top-weight ran and the ground was suitable, you would have to think she would run well.
“She ran very well at Aintree last year when second in the G1 novices’ chase. We have just had a bit of a topsy-turvy season really and the horses were not right earlier on. It is hard to know where we are at the moment although some of them have come out and won recently.
“If we can get Ms Parfois running like she was last season, there has to be a big race in her if the ground is soft to heavy, or soft, good to soft would be fine with some rain about.
“At the moment we are looking at taking her to the Leinster National in early March and we are also looking at the Midlands National, Aintree and the Irish National for her.
“It has been very difficult as we wanted to run Ms Parfois in a mares’ race at Exeter the other day and that was abandoned. We also looked at Wincanton over the weekend but the ground was not suitable. Either of those races would have been a good baby step for her but now she will have to go straight into the deep end in one of the big handicaps.
“The only race she would be entered in at the Cheltenham Festival is the Ultima Handicap Chase, but unfortunately that race takes place on about the only day that her owner won’t be able to go racing. Because of the season we have had, he doesn’t want to miss her when she runs.
“Ms Parfois wasn’t right when she ran in the Ladbrokes Trophy, which was a shame because that looked a golden opportunity for her. We are ready to have another go with her now and see where we are.”
Ms Parfois races in the colours of Dorset-based book distributor Martyn Chapman. He was born in 1951 – the year of Nickel Coin’s Grand National victory.
Honeyball could also be represented in the 2019 Randox Health Grand National by Regal Encore (10st 8lb, 66/1 with Betway). The J P McManus-owned 11-year-old finished eighth, beaten 28 lengths, in the 2017 Randox Health Grand National. He reappeared this season in the a Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle Qualifier at Aintree in October, when coming home sixth to another Randox Health Grand National contender, Abolitionist (Dr Richard Newland, 10st 1lb, 33/1) and was last seen at Ascot on Saturday, February 16, when an encouraging third in the Listed Swinley Handicap Chase.
Honeyball continued: “Regal Encore ran very, very well in the 2017 Grand National and was definitely value for a lot closer than he actually finished – he hunted and popped round before making up a lot of ground. He got a bit tired before staying on again.
“He is pretty versatile as regards the ground. Anything from good through to good to soft or even soft is fine for him.”