An exciting weekend’s sport sees the thrills of the Grand National at Aintree on Saturday followed by the start of the Specsavers County Championship on Sunday. Here, ecb.co.uk looks at the runners and riders for the latter.
Red Rum managed a hat-trick of Grand Nationals. Can Yorkshire do the same again in the Championship? This high-class horse is the bookmaker’s short-priced favourite and there seem to be few flaws in his armoury for others to expose. Could set a rattling pace – and with David Willey added to a powerful stable roster will have plenty left in the tank when others have had enough.
Jockey Adam Voges spent the off-season in Australia and New Zealand achieving great things and is sure to return with confidence as this talented horse bids to deny Yorkshire a Championship hat-trick. The signs are good, but with a big plot afoot at Lord’s to challenge strongly in the NatWest T20 Blast, blinkers may be applied to focus on the Championship too.
Must improve on a dreadful start last year when giving up so much ground to all his rivals – and if travelling strongly with the early pace-setters could come good late in the day. This horse has been boosted by a recent injection of young homegrown lads and there’s even a strong chance that Stuart Broad may have a major say in proceedings. Big chance.
Failed to hit the heights since last major triumph of 2013 and held together by the attentions of Chris Rushworth last year. Repeating last year’s finishing position may prove tricky this year with the owner unable to secure fresh stable staff and top horses Surrey and Lancashire competing back at the elite level this season. Veteran jockey Paul Collingwood rides.
With limited significant movement in and out of this horse’s stable, the real fascination lies in how he will respond to Ian Bell as new first-choice jockey in a bid to recapture a Championship last secured in 2012. The conundrum has led to some bookies making him second favourite behind Yorkshire, others siding with Nottinghamshire.
Forty-year-old jockey Marcus Trescothick has handed over the ride to Chris Rogers six years on from a famous season of near-misses for Somerset. The horse has struggled with staying power since then and bookmakers have responded by rating him as an outsider for the Championship. Did not threaten to fight out the finish last year and some big names have departed the stable.
Rescued a poor Championship season last year by finishing strongly to pick up three late wins and maintain interest in the top tier. Something of an ageing force now, however, and may lack the energy to stay with the leaders if a strong early pace is set. Jockey James Vince has much on his plate – not least breaking into the England set-up. An outside bet.
With consistent strong financial support producing such a powerful stable team it’s always a surprise to see this horse often competing in Division Two. But promotion was secured very comfortably last season and the signs are encouraging that there’s enough in the tank for him to run a big race this time. Mark Footitt should be a powerful addition to the stable ranks.
A tremendous campaign in 2015, featuring both promotion to Division One and NatWest T20 Blast success has left supporters of this horse hungry for more good times. The rested James Anderson is sure to help set up the prospect of a flying start for the Red Rose but the spin department, led by Simon Kerrigan, may be key if he is to mount a strong finish too.