Grand National market movers follow Saturday jump fest
A number of quality staying chases took place in Britain on Saturday so it should come as no surprise to see the connections of horses who ran well and who could line up for the Randox Health Grand National at Aintree on April 4, looking ahead to the publications of the weights for the great race.
On February 11, owners, trainers, jockeys and, of course, punters will get a clearer idea of what is expected of their horses at the luncheon at St. George’s Hall, Liverpool at which the weights for the Merseyside marathon are revealed. Magic Of Light, Yala Enki and Definitly Red all enhanced their chances of taking part in the Grand National with big performances on Saturday.
Magic lights up Ascot gloom
The admirable mare Magic Of Light, a superb second in last year’s Grand National behind Tiger Roll, returned to Ascot for the Grade 2 bet365 Mares’ Hurdle run over very nearly three miles. Jessica Harrington’s nine-year-old hacked up in a Listed mares chase at Newbury on her previous start, but switched seamlessly to timber in making all under Robbie Power to beat Sensulano by nearly five lengths.
This relentless galloper ground her rivals into the Ascot mud and duly had her ante-post odds for going one better than in 2019 at Aintree trimmed from 25/1 in places to a best offer of 20/1*. Some firms shortened the daughter of Flemensfirth up to just 16/1*. Power was in awe of his mount who he believes is better and stronger than at this time last year.
Red definitely on course for Aintree
Over at Haydock there was a competitive renewal of the Grade 2 Peter Marsh Chase, also run on heavy ground. Sue Smith’s Vintage Clouds won with plenty to spare but is not likely to head to Aintree, but runner-up Definitly Red, who conceded 13lbs to the winner, is expected to take his chance on the first Saturday in April and ran a rock solid trial on ground more testing than ideal for him.
Most of the 33/1* available about Definitly Red before the Haydock race had disappeared soon after, and the horse who gained an ideal sighter when fourth to Walk In The Mill in last month’s Randox Health Becher Chase over the big fences is generally on offer at 25/1 now.
Yala effortlessly ploughs through Taunton mud
And down in the south-west at the pretty Taunton racecourse, the feature £50,000 Weatherby’s Portman Cup Chase, run over an extended three-and-a-half miles on heavy ground, was won in some style by the mudlark Yala Enki, trained by Paul Nicholls and ridden by top female rider Bryony Frost.
Always close to the pace, Frost sent her willing mount into the lead three from home and he duly put daylight between himself and his rivals, eventually coasting to a five-and-a-half length success over Rock The Kasbah, with Valtor a further length-and-a-half away in third. Both the runner-up and the third ran in last year’s Grand National – Rock the Kasbah was brought down on the second circuit when making ground into mid-division, while Valtor finished the race in 18th of the 40 runners.
Champion trainer eyeing second National victory
Yala Enki, a classy stayer trained until the end of last term by Venetia Williams, was seventh to Al Boum Photo in the Cheltenham Gold Cup last March having earlier in the season finished a brave third in the Welsh National. He was third again in last month’s renewal of the Chepstow marathon, and if it comes up soft or even heavy at Aintree he would have a proper chance.
50/1 in places prior to his Taunton win, Nicholls’ charge is a best-priced 33/1* shot to give his handler a second Grand National success following the heart-stopping victory of Neptune Collonges back in 2012.
*Odds subject to change.