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Age Against Merry King

Merry King would be the youngest winner of the Grand National since Bogskar in 1940 if he lines up and scores in the 2014 running of the world famous steeplechase.

Apart from his disappointing effort at Cheltenham in March, Jonjo O’Neill’s runner had a good 2012/13 season in which he won and finished second twice over fences in handicaps.

The Irish-bred horse actually had his first outing in the UK at Aintree- the home of the Grand National – in October 2011 but failed to impress over hurdles, with just two modest wins in six starts.

It was only last season that he began his career over fences at Carlisle in a beginners’ chase. That was over 2m where it appeared the trip was too sharp for him.

Next time out, he was tried over 2m4f where he obliged at odds of 6/1 under jockey Richie McLernon. The pair finished five lengths ahead of his rivals that day where he was chased home by Bubbly Bruce and the favourite Milo Milan.

He was unfortunate not to follow that up with another win at Newbury a month later. In a 15 runner field, only 4/1 favourite in the betting, Rolling Aces, got the better of him over the trip of 2m6f. The distance was less than a length as the pair broke away from the rest of the pack.

The margin was even smaller at Haydock when Cannington Brook came out on top of a photo finish between the two. The official margin was a nose as the older horse took the 3m handicap chase which was run on heavy ground in Lancashire.

A big run was expected at the Cheltenham Festival where he was entered in the Grade Three JLT Speciality Handicap Chase. However, mistakes early in the race ruined his chances and forced him to weaken in the closing three from home.

O’Neill’s mount is likely to be tried over 3m once again in the early stages of the new campaign to see if he does a merit a shot of the Grand National in 2014. If not, an extra year’s experience could be given before a shot of the 4m4f race over the bigger obstacles at Aintree. 

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