Noble Yeats to take in Cleeve Hurdle before Aintree return
Noble Yeats, the 2022 Grand National winner, is set to appear at Cheltenham on their Festival Trials Day card this weekend as a precursor in his attempt to get the Aintree crown back.
The Emmet Mullins-trainer star has been confirmed with the intention to line up against the likes of three-time winner Paisley Park, Champ and Dashel Drasher in the McCoy Contractors Cleeve Hurdle (3.35) on Saturday afternoon in the Cotswolds.
Noble Yeats featured amongst a field of ten possibles for the Cleeve Hurdle on Monday.
Change to the plan for 2024
Noble Yeats became the first seven-year-old to win the Aintree National in 82 years when he scored in 2022, giving rider Sam Waley-Cohen the fairytale send-off at the end of an outstanding amateur riding career that also brought him wins in the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the King George at Kempton in the iconic silks of his father, Robert Waley-Cohen.
They acquired Noble Yeats that spring from Paul Byrne before going on to win the big race at Aintree as Mullins, nephew of Ireland’s champion trainer Willie, saw his reputation growing fast.
Noble Yeats could be aimed at the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March, rather than the Gold Cup, in which he finished fourth last year.
“It looks like a perfectly sensible route to go,” said owner Robert Waley-Cohen. “He’ll come for the Cleeve Hurdle and then we’ll decide where to go next.
“He’s entered in the Stayers’ Hurdle. It looks like an open division and we’re keeping our options open. He’s not in the Gold Cup and his number-one priority will be arriving at the Grand National in great order.”
All eyes on Aintree
The owner went on to outline his belief that winning the Gold Cup at Cheltenham in March and then following up in April around Aintree is nigh-on impossible.
Noble Yeats had a busy campaign last season, winning twice before finishing third in the Cotswold Chase on Cheltenham’s Trials Days card and then fourth in the Gold Cup behind Galopin Des Champs.
He was also fourth in the defence of his crown at Aintree before finishing seventh in the lucrative Grand Steeple-Chase de Paris at Auteuil on his final outing.
This year, his schedule is very much being tailored towards Merseyside in April, with a silver medal over hurdles at Limerick (2m4f, heavy) at Christmas his only outing thus far.
“I personally don’t think you can win the Gold Cup and the Grand National, and I don’t think he’s good enough to win the former,” added Waley-Cohen.
“That said, he did incredibly well to finish fourth in both last year. He won two races early on after pulling up on his first start and was placed in the Cotswold, Gold Cup and National. I’m not sure any horse has run in the last two followed by the Grand Steeple.”
Paisley Park, who finished in front of regular rivals Dashel Drasher and Champ when second in the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot in December, will be seeking to become the first four-time winner of the Cleeve Hurdle.
Emma Lavelle’s stable star won in 2019, 2020 and 2022 – with the 2021 renewal abandoned due to waterlogging.
The Venetia Williams-trained Lady Rebecca won three on the spin from 1999 onwards and currently shares the record with Paisley Park.