20 runners go to post on Saturday for the 4 mile, 1½ furlong Midlands Grand National worth £150,000 and with 24 fences to jump on soft ground this is going to be a massive test for the maximum field.
With £84,000 to the winner this race stands up as every bit as important to trainers of staying horses as this week’s Cheltenham Festival was and therefore it is a typically competitive heat. We have picked our six against the field though and the selection rates a nice bet at a value price.
In staying on the way he did at Carlisle right to the line last time out, there is every encouragement that this trip will suit Arthurs Gift even more and Nigel Twiston-Davies’ runner will also appreciate the forecast soft ground.
He has only had three chase starts so relative inexperience versus this field is a slight issue, but with that also comes the possibility of major improvement so all in all the eight-year-old has a great chance of getting into the money under jockey Sam Twiston-Davies.
Back To The Thatch
Henry Daly has laid Back To The Thatch out specifically for this race since his fine second at Haydock Park back in December and it’s very much expected that a chasing career best is on the cards this Saturday.
With that in mind, he could prove to be well handicapped over this sort of distance given that he looks as though he’s crying out for a major test like this one.
The thing that screams out from a look at his profile is that, having finished last season in no sort of form, he ran to a mark of around 105 on his return at Bangor, 120 next time at Chepstow and approximately 130 at Haydock. A big leap forward is expected once again so off a mark of 133 he looks very well placed to challenge under the champ Richard Johnson.
Polly Gundry’s horse is getting on in years now but will most likely appreciate this major test. In fact, the ten-year-old ran arguably his best race ever last time out but that was at Exeter where he seems to pull it out of the bag more than on any other track so around here things could be a little different.
Gordon Elliott had a fantastic Cheltenham Festival and obviously has his string in good order, but while there has been strong money for this horse during the week and he very nearly won the Irish Grand National last season, he was in better form then and has a bit to prove just at the moment which is something he may be unable to do now that he is twelve years old.
Get On The Yager
Dan Skelton’s runner is at just the right stage of his career to mount a big challenge here and that is exactly what we expect him to do.
He has the experience and the form over three miles and more on soft ground and in theory could dig out further improvement yet, but enthusiasm is just tempered a little by his recent form which leaves a lot to be desired.
He has been running over inadequate trips this season however and it would be no surprise if this has been the plan all along – look out for money coming for him overnight on Friday and into Saturday morning if connections are confident.
Second time out after a wind operation, this race requires a career best from Anthony Honeyball’s mare but she is certainly capable of that if the op has done the trick.
She has stayed four miles around Cheltenham in the past and always stands up, so with neither her jumping nor her stamina in question she should give backers a very fair run for their money around this track.
Folsom Blue may be a tad vulnerable these days off a mark of 144 while Ms Parfois’s connections may be pinning their hopes on her recent wind operation.
Get On The Yager is very interesting given that he should finally get the sort of race conditions he will enjoy, but the one with the both the experience and the potential is this BACK TO THE THATCH and frankly it’s surprising that he hasn’t been the ante post favourite for this race.