Honeyball preparing for Aintree Encore
— Mark Johnson (@Johnners77) 21 December 2019
Trainer Anthony Honeyball is getting Regal Encore ready for one more crack at the Randox Health Grand National this spring.
The veteran has twice before lined up in the great race without success and his trainer is eager for a third tilt.
Aintree experience in the bag
Regal Encore finished eighth in the 2017 renewal as One For Arthur landed a famous win for Scotland, before going one 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.
The JP McManus-owned Regal Encore returned to form with a vengeance at Ascot in December when winning the valuable Silver Cup just before Christmas.
He’s since finished third behind Ballyoptic back around the Berkshire circuit this month in a run that has pleased his trainer.
“Regal Encore ran a solid race. (Jockey) Richie McLernon felt an end-to-end gallop would have suited (better) – because they went steady and picked up long way out,” said Honeyball of the run behind the impressive Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained Ballyoptic in the Keltbray Swinley Chase.
Next up it will be time to give Regal Encore a spin over some Aintree-style obstacles in order to prep him for that National.
“He will have a school over the National-style fences in Lambourn, which we have done most years, to let him know something different is round the corner,” added the trainer.
Lower mark in 2020
The 12-year-old will line-up on April 4th off a mark of 146 – 6lb lower than when he finished seventh behind Tiger Roll last year.
In both previous visits, the King’s Theatre gelding has travelled with plenty purpose for much of the journey being struggling late on.
Connections will take encouragement from the likes of Amberleigh House (2004), Royal Athlete (1995), Little Polveir (1989) and Ben Nevis (1980); all four horses having won the Grand National aged 12 since Red Rum managed his third win as a veteran in 1977.
McManus still seeking win No.2
Leading owner JP McManus has fired plenty darts at the Grand National bullseye down the year but, as yet, his only winner remains Don’t Push It in 2010.
Of course, that success was amongst the greatest chapters in Aintree history as Sir Anthony McCoy finally landed the great race after years of National heartache.
McManus will have plenty options again this year.
On Sunday, the Ted Walsh-trained Any Second Now was a winner in Ireland and he appears bound for Aintree now.
Former Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up Anibale Fly is amongst the fancied runners for trainer Tony Martin, while Ok Corral (Nicky Henderson), Kimberlite Candy (Tom Lacey) and Fitzhenry (Paul Nolan) are amongst those that join Regal Encore as possible contenders this year in the famous green and gold hoops.
Honeyball will be hoping that Regal Encore, 65th on the Aintree list, gets his place and can make a strong bid to make it third time lucky in the Randox Health Grand National.