3.15 Haydock Park
We have a smaller than ideal field for this £100,000 Grand National Trial, but still this line-up is a terribly difficult one to separate in the conditions which is exactly how it should be.
The likes of Ballyoptic and Vintage Clouds will surely draw support from some quarters, but they don’t make our compacted shortlist of six which is headed by Elegant Escape.
Now a standing dish in these valuable staying handicaps, Colin Tizzard’s charge was a hugely well-backed winner of the 2018 Welsh Grand National before incredibly going off at 9/4 two months ago for a repeat at Chepstow.
His performances remain strong, however he keeps going up the handicap and is now 12lbs higher in the ratings than when last winning so, while he has to make the shortlist, we’d have to believe he can suddenly improve another half-stone or so to be able to win this.
Berwickshire trainer Sandy Thomson is very well versed when it comes to prepping these staying chasers and we feel he may well just be coming into this race a little underestimated.
Only seven races into his chase career, there is no doubt that we so far have been nowhere near to seeing his best form which is surely still to come and a closer look at his runs so far lead us to the conclusion that his best is likely to come in these conditions.
Having gone up to 3m3f at Ayr last January he won his race comfortably, clearly enjoying the stamina test before returning this season with a fine two-and-a-half-mile win at Newcastle on testing ground.
It’s true that he didn’t improve much when running here in the Peter Marsh Chase, but he wants the ever so slightly slower pace this extended 3m4f race will bring, he was third that day and he has been dropped a pound in the handicap making him overall a very attractive proposition.
Lord Du Mesnil
Richard Hobson’s seven-year-old has won three in a row now and he may not have stopped yet, however those impressive-looking form figures have led to him being a little skinny in the market.
He likes to be on the front end, not always too wise in these conditions up the straight at Haydock, while he also hasn’t faced rivals in double figures at all in this country yet and so could find things way more competitive than he has before during this event.
One For Arthur
Lucinda Russell’s Grand National winner never was a prolific winner, really loving the extreme test Aintree provided him back in 2017.
We don’t believe he went forward from his seasonal reappearance when running fifth in the Becher in December, so while having been freshened up now he may find things tough once again.
The Two Amigos
An eight-year-old who should be gradually getting better, Nicky Martin’s gelding is three from 7 over fences but since going up into top handicap company he hasn’t truly excelled.
Conditions are fine and he could well be on for a good chunk of place money, but right now his mark of 142 still just looks beyond him unless he can suddenly unlock a good deal of improvement.
Paul Nicholls’ horse has predictably come in for a good deal of support in the run-up to this race, his third in the Welsh National and simple win at Taunton looking like fine prep runs for a race like this.
The truth is however that he is ten years old, he’s been round the block 27 times and shouldn’t be capable of showing us anything we didn’t already know which just tempers enthusiasm for him a little.
All of the runners on our shortlist are very close together on the numbers, but having ‘narrowed down’ the initial field based on what we feel they can, and more pertinently in these conditions cannot achieve, we had to use more inductive reasoning in order to rule horses in rather than rule them out from our final list of six.
With that in mind, it’s probable that these conditions are perfect for GERONIMO and that a career best for him is yet to come, so all in all he looks like being the percentage call for Sandy Thomson and jockey Sean Quinlan.
Any of the others could be considered for the places, with The Two Amigos and Elegant Escape possibly the safest choices when looking to add horses into placepots and such like.