Honeyball keen on Aintree Encore
— Mark Johnson (@Johnners77) 21 December 2019
Trainer Anthony Honeyball has been outlining plans to get Regal Encore back to Aintree in the spring for a third tilt at glory in the Randox Health Grand National.
Regal Encore finished eighth in the 2017 renewal of the Grand National as One For Arthur landed a famous win for Scotland, before going once place better last April as the magnificent Tiger Roll etched his name into the history books in securing back-to-back wins in the great race.
Encore back on song
The JP McManus-owned Regal Encore returned to form with a vengeance at Ascot last month when winning the valuable Silver Cup just before Christmas.
He arguably saves his very best form for the Berkshire track but he has twice run with great credit in the Aintree marathon before and his connections are keen on another tilt.
Three of his four wins over fences in Britain have now come at Ascot.
Without a win since February 2018, Regal Encore had shown signs of a turnaround when he finished second in the Sodexo Gold Cup at Ascot in early November, only to be pulled up next time in the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury.
He showed all his enthusiasm however in besting some younger rivals to take out the Listed Silver Cup as an early Christmas bonus for Honeyball.
Ascot, then Aintree
The Potwell Farm trainer is now contemplating a path back to Aintree in April and, unsurprisingly, Honeyball intends on going back to Ascot for a prep run ahead of the Randox Health Grand National.
“It was great to see him win again. We probably couldn’t have afforded him to drop any lower if we wanted to go back to the National,” said Honeyball. “He ran in it last year off 152 and he’d dropped to 142 before Ascot.
“There’s a chase at Ascot in February that he’s run in the past two years, winning it once and finishing third last year, and he’ll go back for it again as he’s 6lb lower this time.
“Hopefully if all goes well there it will be Aintree again after that. Hopefully he’ll head to the National off around the 146 he’s currently on.”
Aintree experience in the bank
Regal Encore’s two previous runs in the Grand National ought to stand him in good stead should he make it to Merseyside again in April.
In both previous visits, the King’s Theatre gelding has travelled with plenty of purpose for much of the journey before being outpaced from the third last to the winning line.
Having just turned 12 years old, his connections will take encouragement from the likes of Amberleigh House (2004), Royal Athlete (1995), Little Polveir (1989) and Ben Nevis (1980); the four horses to win the Grand National aged 12 since Red Rum managed his third win as a veteran in 1977.
McManus stuck on one
Despite the wide array of trainers and the many horses in his ownership, JP McManus remains marooned on a solitary Grand National success.
That, famously, came in 2010 when AP McCoy partnered the Jonjo O’Neill-trained Don’t Push It to glory.
A triumvirate of racing royalty came together on the day ‘The Champ’ finally fulfilled a lifetime’s ambition in winning the world’s most famous steeplechase after a career laced with near misses and heartache around Aintree.