Stamina laden Le Breuil looks Grand National type

If ever there was a horse made to tackle the four-and-a-quarter miles and thirty fences of the Aintree marathon that is the Randox Health Grand National, then the Ben Pauling trained Le Breuil is it.

Whether he will win “the world’s greatest steeplechase” is another matter, but following one of the most memorably exhausting victories in modern Cheltenham Festival history, when he beat Discorama by half a length in the Grade 2 National Hunt Challenge Cup Amateur Riders’ Novices’ Chase at the home of jump racing last March, the German bred son of Anzillero has already earned himself a place in the collective hearts of many lovers of this great sport.

Decent hurdler becomes useful chaser

A useful 143-rated hurdler the previous season, Le Breuil (French for ‘The Winch’) arrived at the Cheltenham Festival on the back of five starts last term in novices chase where he showed plenty of ability.

After comfortably winning a Huntingdon novices chase on his seasonal bow over 2m4f, he failed by just a neck to beat Count Meribel in the prestigious Steel Plate & Sections Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham’s November meeting, before stepping up to nearly three miles when finishing third to the smart Santini in the Grade 2 John Francome Novices’ Chase.

Second at Cheltenham two weeks later to Drovers Lane, then fourth four weeks after that in a Grade 2 at Haydock when dropped back to 2m4f, the gelding was finally given a well earned break.

Memorable National Hunt Chase win

When he lined up for the marathon 3m7f National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival 52 days later, the 14/1 shot, ridden by top amateur rider Jamie Codd had stamina to prove, especially as conditions came up very soft, placing stamina at a premium in a race for amateur riders only.

Eighteen horses set out for that National Hunt Chase, but only four finished. There were no less than eight fallers, five pulled up, and one unseated rider as the combination of a ridiculously fast early pace in the conditions and the extreme distance took its toll on the field.

Turning for home, Le Breuil, who had never before raced beyond three miles, was locked in battle with Ireland’s Discorama, the subject of a major gamble, running in the famous colours of legendary punter JP McManus.

Le Breuil would not give in

The two horses jumped the last together, then in a slow motion finish that was certainly not for the faint hearted, the pair slugged it out toe-to-toe up the hill with Le Breuil finally forging ahead in the last 50 yards to score by half a length.

There were 47 lengths back to Jerrysback in third, with rank outsider Clondaw Cian the only other horse to complete the course.

The race came in for much criticism with some observers suggesting certain jockeys had been far too hard on their horses when they were clearly struggling to keep going. But not so Le Breuil.

Providing Pauling with his second Festival winner, he showed tremendous stamina, guts and determination, attributes that immediately marked him down as a potential Grand National contender.

Being trained with Grand National in mind

Not surprisingly, Le Breuil didn’t race again last season after that Herculean effort. He reappeared this season in a Grade 2 three-mile hurdle at Wetherby in early November, where he ran a shocker and was eventually pulled up by champion jockey Richard Johnson.

Some suggested his incredibly tough race at Cheltenham eight months earlier had left an indelible mark.

But at Aintree five weeks later Le Breuil bounced back. Tackling the famous big spruce fences for the first time in the Grade 3 Randox Health Becher Handicap Chase over three-and-a-quarter miles, he jumped well and was patiently ridden in rear before making good headway to track the leaders crossing the Melling Road after the third last.

Unable to quicken with speedier horses, he kept on at one pace to eventually finish seventh behind the impressive Walk In The Mill (to whom he was conceding 9lb).

No stamina concerns

This was an excellent ‘sighter’ though for the Grand National itself. Le Breuil, on the evidence of his superb Cheltenham win, will relish the extra mile of the big race on April 4, and if the ground comes up soft he will be keeping on when so many others, as they did at Cheltenham, will have called it a day.

There are plenty of horses offering less value than the 40/1* currently on offer about this very interesting big race contender.

*Odds subject to change.

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