National hope Candy looks ‘A-OK’ for JP

Leading National Hunt owner JP McManus has won it all in this sport and owned some of the most popular horses in modern times. Among the greatest racing moments for the likeable Irishman was the victory of his heavily-backed Don’t Push It in the 2010 Grand National at Aintree, a win that finally broke the race hoodoo for his legendary rider, AP McCoy.

McCoy celebrations live long in the memory

The usually calm and collected McCoy, who like his patron had seen it all and done it all, allowed his straight-faced exterior to crack in the aftermath of his mount’s five-length defeat of the gallant Black Apalachi. The celebrations that followed have gone down in Aintree folklore as the 10-year-old, trained by another racing superstar, Jonjo O’Neill, landed a huge on-course gamble, punted off the boards from 20/1 to just 10/1 in the minutes before the race began.

Sunnyhillboy and Cause of Causes both second in the National

McManus, associated with such great horses as triple Champion Hurdle winner Istabraq, four-time World Hurdle hero Baracouda, as well as the likes of star turns like Buveur D’Air, Carlingford Lough, Synchronised, Binocular and many, many more, went agonisingly close to a second Grand National success when his Sunnyhillboy was caught in the very last stride in the 2012 renewal by the gallant grey, Neptune Collonges.

In recent years McManus’ Cause of Causes finished a brave second to One For Arthur in the 2017 renewal, while his Anibale Fly (5th) and Regal Encore (7th) both ran well in last year’s race famously won by dual scorer Tiger Roll, and both could be back for another crack at the £1million Aintree marathon on April 4.

Candy Classic Chase win sweet for Lacey

Another who may well carry the green and gold colours is Saturday’s impressive Grade 3 Classic Chase winner Kimberlite Candy, who romped home in the Warwick race that has a good recent record as a Grand National trial. One For Arthur won it in 2017 before going to Aintree glory, while the 2018 winner Milansbar ran a fine fifth on Merseyside behind Tiger Roll.

Kimberlite Candy, an imposing son of Flemensfirth, had a first taste of the unique Aintree fences when running an excellent Grand National trial at the course last month, finishing strongly to take second place behind Walk In The Mill in the Grade 3 Randox Health Becher Handicap Chase. Under regular partner Richie McLernon, the Tom Lacey-trained eight-year-old jumped really well on his first run for nearly eight months, and his subsequent Warwick success over 3m5f hinted strongly that he will get every yard of the 4m2f that awaits back at Aintree in the spring.

Kimberlite seems sure to make the cut now

With the last horse making the cut in the 40-runner Grand National in recent years having been rated no lower than 142 or 143, it was important for connections that Kimberlite Candy win at Warwick as he went into that race off a mark of just 140. His 10-length defeat though of Captain Chaos will surely be enough to see him comfortably above the likely cut-off point and able to take his chance in “the world’s greatest steelechase” if connections give him the green light.

“Richie got him into a lovely rhythm and said he didn’t jump as well as he can, but whether that was the ground or coming back to these fences from Aintree’s National ones and having a little look at the take-off boards, I don’t know,” Lacey told the Racing Post. “We’ll see about Aintree and the National as he’s ground-dependent; it’d have to be soft. He’ll go up after that, but it’s an option.”

National hope looks the finished article

Kimberlite Candy has begun to look the finished article this season after being far from consistent in his younger days. McLernon went on to say that the horse seems much stronger this year than last – and added he’d be very happy to be on board if does indeed go for the big one on the first Saturday in April. Kimberlite Candy is still available at 25/1* in some places, having been offered at 50/1* prior to his Warwick romp.

*Odds subject to change.

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