Hot on the heels of the Cheltenham Festival comes this much-anticipated staying race, the Midlands Grand National.
With a full field which has 24 fences and four-and-a-quarter miles ahead of them, this will take some getting but we’ve been able to whittle the contenders down to these six well-qualified challengers:
Harry Fry’s runner has a terrific profile for this race which is sure to catch the eye of many. Fifth in the Welsh National Trial, he improved on that to run a 6-length fourth in the big race itself and it seems there could be more improvement to come now.
Furthermore, Captain Drake ran second in this race last year when a seven-year-old, so considering that the vast majority of Midlands National winners are 8 or 9 we could argue now that his run twelve months ago was simply his warm-up and that this is his year.
Coo Star Sivola
Beginning to climb back to somewhere near his best form is Nick Williams’ Coo Star Sivola, and the nine-year-old stayer could have a big say in this race.
At his best he was rated some 15lbs higher than he is right now, and while we can’t say for certain he’s quite that well in, his recent run at Sandown would suggest he may have a few pounds in hand for the first time in a long while and that counts for a hell of a lot in a race of this attritional nature.
In six or seven runs since October 2020, Crossley Tender has basically done nothing but improve. While every horse’s form has to flatten out at some stage, who are we to question when it will be? At eight years old, it seems unlikely that this horse has to take a break while the climbing the ladder just yet.
That being said, the handicapper is hot on his heels and so this horse keeps creeping up in the weights, though he is one of few for whom we have no stamina doubts given that he was a close second in the Eider Chase at Newcastle last time behind a well handicapped individual.
An outsider for this, Seaston Spirit is one who could outrun his price. The fact that he was pulled-up last time doesn’t help things, but before that Oliver Sherwood’s gelding was going nicely and reached a seasonal and career peak when landing the Sussex National at Plumpton.
That was over 3½ miles and there is some hope that he will stay this extra distance, though as with many in the field that much cannot be completely guaranteed.
Time To Get Up
At the end of what is traditionally JP McManus’ busiest week, he has a well-backed favourite for the Midlands National in the shape of Time To Get Up.
Formerly trained by Joseph O’Brien but now with Jonjo O’Neill, Time To Get Up will be having only his fourth chase start in this race and while he is improving pretty rapidly, that lack of experience may tell in the end.
His win at Wincanton over 3m1f however was impressive, and despite having gone up 8lbs in the handicap he would appear on paper to be just the sort to do well in this event. Jonjo O’Neill Jr. takes the ride.
Philip Hobbs may have a real gem here. Eight-year-old Truckin Away, a winner last time out, has a lovely profile and may have just been prepped to perfection for a crack at this.
Clearly still going the right way, he landed a decent three-mile chase at Doncaster last time out and while he’s gone up some 10lbs in the ratings for that triumph, there’s a good chance that he can defy the rise now he’s significantly upped in trip.
He appears to have been aimed at a late season race such as this, given that he made just an OK start to the campaign before improving anywhere between 5 and 10lbs between his races since. Big chance.
This is a tough race, but the one who is on the up and gets his chance at a marathon distance is TRUCKIN AWAY for Philip Hobbs and he is backed to land the prize.
Time To Get Up is interesting but lacks some experience, while Seaston Spirit could outrun his odds and Captain Drake carries a lot of hope.