All eyes on Warwick for key Grand National Trial
— Racing Post (@RacingPost) March 12, 2019
Although some three months before Aintree, Warwick’s 3m5f McCoy Contractors Civil Engineering Classic Handicap Chase has proven a real pointer to the Grand National in recent years.
In 2017 One For Arthur won the Classic chase emphatically before going on to win the big one at Aintree three months later. The following season Milansbar won at Warwick before finishing fifth in the National which represented the best finish by any British trained runner in the race that year.
Last year’s winner of the Classic, Impulsive Star, missed the National as a novice although he will bid for a repeat in this year’s Classic before a possible first crack at the Aintree spectacular.
Here we take a look at the Classic chase contenders to keep an eye on with the National in mind.
The most fancied runner for the National although only third favourite for the Classic, Le Breuil looks an ideal candidate for ‘the people’s race’. He won the 4m National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham last year and that race has been won by future National winner Tiger Roll as well as placed National runners Rathvinden and Cause Of Causes in the last five years. Future Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Native River was second in the race in 2016.
Le Breuil, trained at Bourton-on-the-water by Ben Pauling, beat fellow potential National horse Discorama at Cheltenham, looking a real stayer in the process. Pauling said immediately post-race that the National was the target and after jumping the big fences well enough last time he ought to be ready to up his game at Warwick, despite carrying top weight.
The 3m2f Becher chase over the National Fences isn’t perhaps the race it once was as a trial although three horses in seven years did the double around the turn of the last millennium.
It does, however, often throw up horses placed who later go on to go well in the National itself and Kimberlite Candy looked an ideal Grand National type when staying on well for second behind Walk In The Mill in the Becher.
Second favourite for the Classic Chase; Kimberlite Candy must still prove his stamina for such a contest. He ran respectably in the 4m Eider Chase at Newcastle last season but the petrol light appeared to be on towards the end so this 3m5f contest will tell us much more about his capabilities for the marathon 4m2f test.
The Ladbrokes Trophy (formerly Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup) has always been one of the most prestigious handicap chases of the season and the fact that three Cheltenham Gold Cup winners have used it as a springboard since 2007 further emphasises its importance.
In 2014 Many Clouds won it en route to winning the Grand National and a slew of placed runners in the Ladbrokes have gone on to run big races in the National.
The 2019 Ladbrokes Trophy saw a win for De Rasher Counter beating formerly Irish-trained chaser The Conditional by 1½L. That effort represented a career best for The Conditional who gained his first win over fences the time before when beating West Approach at Cheltenham; form well franked by that rival subsequently.
Off the track since Newbury, there is every chance that The Conditional remains well handicapped, hence him being favourite for the Classic. The 3m5f distance will be the furthest that this improving chaser has tackled and he could very easily springboard himself towards the head of the National market with a win which would dispel any stamina doubts.
Defending champion Impulsive Star has failed to complete all three subsequent starts. 2018 Classic winner and National fifth Milansbar is also struggling for form. Out-and-out stayer Crosspark, who won last year’s Eider Chase (4m) and was second in the Scottish National (4m), looks up against it here but he should appreciate the National distance if running at Aintree so he is probably worth keeping an eye on also.