Contrasting fortunes for National hopefuls on the road to Aintree

Last Updated 23 Feb 2020 | Commercial content | 18+


With all the Cheltenham Festival trials done and dusted for now, attention has turned to the final trial runs of many Grand National hopefuls before their date with destiny at Aintree. The Betway Handicap Chase at Kempton and the Grade Three Bobbyjo Chase at Fairyhouse have thrown up contenders aplenty in the last couple of seasons and this year’s renewals were no different, with one of the races enhancing the claims of some, while the other put a dent in others on their journey to Merseyside.

Acapella finds the winning tune in the Bobbyjo Chase

The enigmatic Acapella Bourgeois can be a top-class performer on his day and he didn’t put a foot wrong when romping to victory in the Bobbyjo Chase.

Named after the 1999 Grand National winner, the ten-year-old showed all the right signs of being a live contender for the Aintree spectacular with a front-running enterprising display of jumping under Danny Mullins.

After finishing third in last year’s Irish Grand National, winning trainer Willie Mullins confirmed his charge is likely to take a shot at Aintree glory following his 15-length triumph.

“He’s in the English and Irish Nationals. There are a lot of connections and they are probably more leaning towards Aintree,” Mullins said.

“I’d imagine at the moment that’s the winning vote in the Carlow Camp. The weather will play a big part and we’ll have to see what the long-range forecast is like.”

The Closutton-based trainer is wary of Acapella Bourgeois’ task at Aintree and believes soft ground could aid his chances.

He added: “Conditions suited him great today. Very heavy ground and a good test of stamina is exactly what he wants.

“These were his ideal conditions and he won well.”

Acapella Bourgeois is now a best-priced 33/1* for the National after his success in a race where former Grand National second, Pleasant Company, finished fifth.

British duo scupper National hopes at Kempton?

Kildisart and Talkischeap had been touted as live outside contenders for the Grand National, but their quest to make it to Aintree may be in slight doubt after fluffing their lines in the Betway Handicap Chase at Kempton.

The pair looked to have this season at their mercy after some impressive handicap chase victories last term, but little has gone right since, including at the weekend when Kildisart was fifth and Talkischeap pulled up behind the winner, Mister Malarky.

While Kildisart fared best of the pair, his jumping lacked the fluency a typical Aintree contender may have and would only be trainer Ben Pauling’s second string if he was to turn up.

After romping to victory in last year’s Bet365 Gold Cup, Talkischeap has looked a shadow of his former self and may need better ground, but Alan King’s charge may head to Merseyside in the worst form possible and could have his Aintree mission aborted for another year.

Next year’s National for Mister Malarky

Patience is a virtue and trainer Colin Tizzard hopes that will pay off with his Kempton winner Mister Malarky.

After looking a potential star during his novice campaign, he had three luckless runs before Christmas but bounced right back to his best under rising star Jonjo O’Neill jr.

With age on his side, the Dorset-based handler is happy to play the waiting game with his prospect following his lucrative handicap success.

“I’ve no doubt we will talk about the Grand National next year,” Tizzard said.

“The National is not what it used to be as they are not the fences they were. It’s a good staying race and this is a really good staying handicapper now.”

 

*Odds subject to change.

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