Weekend Takeaways – National hopes rise and fall
Although the Cheltenham Festival is now firmly coming into view, many of Racing’s marathon men and women are already looking beyond Prestbury Park and towards the Grand National in April.
During a busy weekend, there were many Grand National possibles putting their credentials to the test and here we look at those who gained traction for the big April showpiece in Liverpool.
Despite returning from a 316-day absence in which he’d had minor surgery, the dual champion and ante-post favourite ran a cracker in finishing fifth. Afterwards his trainer Gordon Elliott said: “I’m absolutely thrilled with Tiger Roll.”
Indeed, having travelled superbly, the dual National hero loomed a big danger before blowing up late on but, given how Elliott had been at pains to say how much he would need the run, it was a performance which can only enhance his credentials. ‘Tiger’ will next go to Cheltenham trying to complete another treble in the Cross Country Chase.
Last year’s National runner-up Magic Of Light was more fancied than Tiger Roll for the race having won last time out but she was never going and pulled-up on ground which may have been her undoing.
In desperate conditions which even undid the highest-rated chaser in England in Cyrname, Nigel Twiston-Davies’ Ballyoptic enhanced his National credentials no end with a fine all-the-way win under top weight. Twice a faller over the National fences before finally getting round in the Becher Chase before Christmas, Ballyoptic gave Valtor 7lb and a eight-and-a-half lengths beating in the gruelling 3m handicap. Twiston-Davies said he would definitely go for the National – a race he has twice won before. As a result of the run, Ballyoptic halved in price to 20/1* after this fine weight-carrying performance.
Lord Du Mesnil
Winners of Haydock’s Grand National Trial have a terrible record in the Aintree spectacular and Smooth Stepper is unlikely to enhance that in 2020. Runner-up Lord Du Mesnil, however, could be a different kettle of fish. In bidding for a hat-trick of big race Haydock wins after successes in the Last Fling Chase and Tommy Whittle Chase, Lord Du Mesnil again put in a terrific performance from the front seeing them off one by one until getting mugged by Smooth Stepper late on.
This looked a stellar trial. Lord Du Mesnil revels in deep ground and trainer Richard Hobson warned that barring “monsoon-like conditions it might come a year too early”. Lord Du Mesnil is only seven and horses of his age have an appalling National record. He wouldn’t be discounted, though, if the ground came up heavy and he took his place.
Unfortunately in the Haydock marathon, 2017 National here One For Arthur was pulled up and found to have a heart problem placing his participation in jeopardy.
50/1 for the four-runner Grade 1 Ascot Chase, Traffic Fluide was back from a 469-day absence having his National preparation in a race he was fully entitled to lob along in behind and finish in his own time. As it was, with Cyrname beaten, he looked ready to pass eventual winner Riders On the Storm before falling at the last as Cyrname did behind him. Reportedly none the worse for the fall he remains on course for the National and he should sneak in off a low-weight.
A price of 40/1* looks over the top at this stage, even though stamina is a slight question mark.
*Odds subject to change.
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