Likely Lad has nerves jangling for Nick Alexander

Trainer steeped in history of the race has big chance with bargain-buy grey

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Nick Alexander is thrilled at having the opportunity to strike for the smaller jumps trainer in the biggest race of them all when Lake View Lad lines up for the Randox Health Grand National.

The Fife trainer admits the Aintree showpiece has been part of his life since he was a child – and revealed he was even named after the 1961 winner Nicolaus Silver, who is one of only three grey horses to win the world’s famous steeplechase.

And by coincidence, Alexander’s contender is a grey and owned by Trevor Hemmings, himself successful three times with Hedgehunter (2005), Ballabriggs (2011) and Many Clouds (2015).

Alexander, who has a string of 35 horses, is simply delighted to have a decent chance with a horse that cost just £70,000 at public auction.

“It would be very exciting, very nerve-racking. It’s tremendous for a little yard like this to have a horse at the top end of the weights in the National,” he said.

“I think since he won the race at Wetherby on Boxing Day it’s been on the agenda.”

Lake View Lad advertised his claims for Aintree when third under the welter burden of 11st 12lb in the ultra competitive Ultima Handicap Chase at Cheltenham.

“I was very pleased with him at Cheltenham. He ran a tremendous race under top-weight,” said Alexander.

“We won’t train him any differently. He’s been a star for us.

“We’re very happy with the way he has come out of Cheltenham. He’s very fresh.

“He’s a really good horse. The handicapper has put him up 3lb, so he’s running in the National 3lb well-in.

“I suspect there’ll be plenty of good opposition. We won’t get too excited, but hopefully he’ll go there and run a big race.”

Alexander’s National memories go back to the legendary Red Rum in the 1970s.

“It’s been part of my life. I’d have watched the Grand National every year since I can remember. I never would have missed it,” he said.

“For me, like every jump racing fan, it’s an absolutely integral part of following the sport.

“I can remember Red Rum’s Grand Nationals, Little Polveir and all those when I was a child. It’s a great race and great to be playing a part in it.

“Not many greys have won the race, but one was Nicolaus Silver in 1961. I think that’s why I was called Nicholas. That was 1961, the year I was born.”

Having first taken out a licence in 2002, Alexander explained how he came to train Lake View Lad.

“We bought him because we liked his form in a bumper in Ireland. My son, Kit, selected him,” he said.

“We had an owner who wanted to buy a decent horse. We bought him at the Cheltenham Sale after he finished third at Punchestown.

“That looked very solid form and we were delighted we were able to buy him. Kevin Ross was the agent who bought him for us, but it was Kit who found him.

“I’ve been absolutely delighted with the horse all the time we’ve had him.

“Last summer, unfortunately the owner who bought him ran into some financial difficulties and was forced to sell him.

“Mr Hemmings was the first person I called and I was absolutely delighted he bought him straight away. Every little yard needs a good horse and everything has been fine so far.

“He loved the horse’s profile and he’s just Mr Hemmings’ type of horse.”

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