Saturday’s Grand National Trial, The Grimthorpe Handicap, (hasn’t produced a winner of the great race since Amberleigh House in 2004, but the 2016 Victor, The Last Samuri, did go on to finish 2nd at Aintree the following year) is quite a strong heat for trends. Weight has been pretty significant, with only 4 winners in the last 20 renewals carrying more than 11 stones, as has age, with no horse younger than 8 succeeding since the Paul Nicholls trained 7yo, Knight Templar, got his head in front in 2000. With Doncaster’s long attritional straight to cope with, contenders tend to start racing in earnest earlier, putting an additional emphasis on stamina, and winning form over at least three miles has been essential.
Following wins with Shraden Leader, (1994) and The Last Samuri, (2016) Kim Bailey is seeking to bring up a third victory with his upwardly mobile 8yo, Rocky’s Treasure. A winner of 4 of his 6 starts over fences, he hacked up over the course, (3m Good Dec15) where, making all in the Grade2 contest, he stayed on stoutly to beat the 138 rated, Theclockisticking by 17L in a race run at a good clip. He blotted his copybook 4 weeks later in a Warwick Class1 Handicap. Sent off a 6/5 Fav, he didn’t seem to cope with the course’s unique jumping demands, and finished a well beaten 3rd. Stoutly bred, by Westerner, out of the brood mare, Fiddlers Bar, he is a half brother to the classy Double Shuffle, so should find Saturday’s trip ideal. Back at Doncaster, where he had been so impressive in his previous race, and with the stable in good form, he has plenty to recommend him, and my only concern would be his top weight of 11-10.
Cumbrian trainer, Nicky Richards (pictured) who is having such a good season, is represented by the two 10yo’s, Chidswell and course winner, Looking Well. The former has mostly been campaigned at shorter than 3 miles but looked as if Saturday’s trip might be within his compass when staying on well to win a Kelso Class3 Handicap, (2m 7 1/2f) last time out. However there has to be some doubt as the last fence was omitted, and the time was slow, so Nicky’s best chance of bringing the prize home to Greystoke would seem to lie with Looking Well. By the very successful NH stallion Gold Well, he is bred to stay long distances, and indeed was going extremely well when falling at the 3rd last in the 4m1/2f Scottish Borders National in December. He made amends 10 days ago with a comfortable victory here at Doncaster off a mark of 133, (3m Good) looking like an animal at the top of his game. The extra 2 furlongs on Saturday looks ideal and only 6lbs higher giving him a racing weight of 11-2 he looks quite well treated.
Richard Newland has a well deserved reputation for rejuvenating cast offs from other stables and seems to have worked the Oracle yet again with the 11yo, Abolitionist. Having recorded his last success at Naas in March 2017 he joined the Newland operation in January 2018, and made his debut for the yard (Nov 18) a winning one, cruising up in a 3m Class2 Aintree Hurdle off a mark of 122 by 10L from the 139 rated
The Organist, and earning a new mark of 134 in that discipline, 19lbs higher than his previous winning mark of 115. He was excellent 3rd in the 2017 Irish Grand National, racing off a mark of 145, and if the talented Dr Newland has elicited anything like the same improvement over fences from this veteran, he has to be a very well handicapped animal racing off the same mark at the weekend. A slight concern would be the stables lack of recent form, but they are already 7 ahead of their previous best season.
The Chris Grant trained AcDc, a winner of 4 of his 12 starts over fences is attempting Saturday’s trip for the first time but wasn’t stopping when winning over 3m1/2f at Ayr
(Nov2017) and as a son of Kings Theatre out of a Slip Anchor mare shouldn’t find the trip a problem. He won nicely at Wetherby on his seasonal debut in October and ran ok 17 days later, finishing 4th at Ayr. Unsurprisingly beaten when stepped up to Grade2 level last time, he races on Saturday off a mark of 133, giving him a nice racing weight of 10-10 and is worth considering.
Animals younger than 8 have found it difficult to win but Philip Hobbs’s 7yo
Beau Du Brizais, with 10 chases under his belt, has not only had plenty of experience, but has shown definite improvement in his last two runs. The son of Kapgarde won a Ludlow Class3 over 3m1 1/2f off a mark of 123 in early December, and followed up at the same venue a fortnight later (3mSoft) where despite meeting plenty of trouble in running, and racing off a 6lbs higher mark, won by 2 1/2L and 7L from the 132 rated pair Holly Bush Henry and Fox Appeal, which makes Saturday’s mark of 135 look very fair. Philip won with Out The Back ten years ago, and looks to have another serious contender on Saturday.
Selection : Looking Well
EW. : Beau Du Brizais