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Blast From The Past: Midlands Grand National

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This week we remember a Midlands Grand National winner who went on to even greater things...

Despite being a son of outstanding Flat sire Sadler’s Wells, the J. P. McManus-owned Synchronised was already well proven as a thorough stayer over jumps when the Cheltenham Festival came round in 2010. He was a seven-year-old by then and had won five of his eight completed starts, three over hurdles and two over fences.

In theory, the four-mile National Hunt Chase, in which his trainer Jonjo O’Neill had a fine record, looked the obvious race for him at the Festival, but as well as being a stayer, Synchronised was also a proven mudlark (all bar one of his starts had come on either soft or heavy ground) and the ground was deemed insufficiently soft for him to take his chance at Cheltenham. However, there wasn’t long to wait for a more suitable-looking opportunity for Synchronised as conditions were heavy at Uttoxeter just four days later for the Midlands Grand National over slightly further than the National Hunt Chase.

Ridden by Tony McCoy, Synchronised was sent off the 15/2 second favourite in a large field which also included past Welsh National winners L’Aventure and Miko de Beauchene, a fellow novice Giles Cross (who was to finish runner-up in two subsequent Welsh Nationals), a future Welsh National winner Le Beau Bai and a former Scottish National winner Iris de Balme.

Chasers & Hurdlers take up the story of a particularly gruelling edition of one of the season’s longest races:

‘This was a ‘last-horse-standing race’ if ever there was one. Seventeen went to post, leading fancy Ballydub fell at the second, and thirteen of the rest were pulled up at various stages, including the Irish-trained favourite Inoma James, one of the less inspired big-race gambles of the season. Synchronised hardly looked likely to justify his prominent position in the market early on, travelling less than fluently in rear before finally warming to his task. By the time the six runners who were still continuing turned for home, the race was effectively down to a match between Synchronised who was now on terms with the front-running L’Aventure; a move to the front two out looked decisive for Synchronised but he tired and L’Aventure rallied, both being virtually out on their feet at the line. There was a distance back to the only other finisher Giles Cross.’

The Midlands National actually took longer to run than the Grand National itself some weeks later which Synchronised’s connections won with Don’t Push It. Chasers & Hurdlers nominated the Welsh National as the ‘obvious target’ for Synchronised in the next season, and it was a race he duly went on to win the following January from Giles Cross to complete a ‘full house’ of Nationals for Tony McCoy. Synchronised contested the Midlands National again that season, this time finishing third under top weight (conceding the best part of two stone to most of the field) on ground that wasn’t as testing as it had been twelve months earlier.

Synchronised’s greatest moment was still to come, though, and in 2012, he landed the Cheltenham Gold Cup, the testing nature of the course playing to Synchronised’s strengths, even if conditions on the day were nothing like as soft as he was used to. ‘He never gives up, just like his jockey’ explained his trainer afterwards. Sadly, Synchronised suffered a fatal accident when contesting the Grand National the following month; he was unscathed after falling at Becher’s but sustained an injury when running loose. He is buried at Jackdaws Castle.

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